Silent treatment isn't enough

Kevin Cowherd

June 02, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

If there is a down side to the recent warm weather, it is the number of mimes who have again taken to the streets and parks to pester people.

I made the mistake of having lunch outdoors the other day at Harborplace, somehow forgetting that Baltimore's yuppiefied waterfront is the home office for mimes this time of year.

Sure enough, shortly after paying $27 or whatever it was for a chicken salad sandwich, the day went swiftly downhill.

One minute the noontime crowd was sitting there enjoying the sunshine, and the next minute you could feel a chill in the air as this mime wheeled up on a unicycle.

The unicycle itself was disturbing enough, since the only people who use unicycles are annoying people like jugglers and circus clowns and third-rate vaudevillians with bad dog acts.

A normal human being (at least one over the age of, oh, 7) does not ride a unicycle. Even as a "hoot." It's really that simple.

Anyway, this mime was dressed in your standard mime get-up: the baggy pants, the red suspenders, the black T-shirt, the white gloves, the heavy pancake make-up . . . the whole nine yards.

Naturally, at this point, many in the crowd attempted to flee, grabbing their lunches in the kind of blind panic that only a mime can inspire.

One visibly agitated mother was overheard telling her children: "If you even think of becoming a mime, I'll give you such a smack!"

In any event, to begin the, ahem, entertainment, the mime fell in behind a couple of strolling senior citizens and began imitating the way they walked.

Yeah, I know . . . strictly nursery school stuff. Unbelievably, it actually got a couple of laughs, mostly from a few older, burnt-out ex-hippie types who were probably experiencing acid flashbacks.

The rest of the crowd sat in stony silence, which is the usual reception accorded to mimes, at least by anyone without a history of chemical abuse.

Let's face it, no one likes mimes. Have you ever heard anyone say: "Boy, I saw a terrific mime last night!?"

Or has anyone ever yawned at a dull cocktail party and said: "You know what we could use about now? A good mime!"

No. Of course not. That would not be rational behavior. Most people find mimes to be supremely irritating, and can't tolerate their presence for long without wanting to take a swing at one.

(By the way, this is a perfectly natural reaction. I have seen 80-year-old grandmothers ball their fists when around mimes. Heck, I once saw a priest become so annoyed at a mime in New York's Central Park that the priest threatened to slap the mime if the mime didn't stop mimicking him.

(Oh, yeah, that whole "Love thy neighbor" business goes out the window when you talk about a mime.)

Anyway, pretty soon this mime sensed he was losing the crowd, the hooting and jeering having grown increasingly louder by the minute.

But instead of getting back on his stupid unicycle and pedaling away, the mime only made things worse.

Quickly he began performing the same old dreary routines that every mime does.

Oh, you know the ones: Man Walking Against the Wind, Man Trapped in a Glass Room, Man Walking a Dog on a Leash, etc.

Tell me: Is there a law in this country that says every street mime must perform the exact same boring routine?

Would it be possible for just one of these mimes to do something unique? Something we didn't see Marcel Marceau do on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 25 years ago? No, I suppose that would be asking too much.

Well, as you can imagine, as soon as the mime launched into his tired routines, the place emptied like someone had lobbed TC stick of dynamite.

I tried to gather up my chicken salad sandwich and run with everyone else but was nearly trampled in the crush of bodies.

Even though the mime was obviously used to this reception, he made one last half-hearted attempt to hang on to the crowd.

In possibly the worst example of pantomime ever witnessed, he mimicked a man weeping and throwing a temper tantrum.

But the routine was so corny that by now even little children were trying to kick him in the shins.

Look, I know the police have their hands full with murderers and drug dealers and what have you.

But I don't see how you can allow these mimes to go around annoying decent citizens on their lunch hours.

There's something very wrong with a society that condones that.

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