And a mime shall lead them . . . to disquieting madness

THE FLIP SIDE

March 23, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

Spring is a wonderful time of year, except it also means the streets are once again filling with mimes, who are surely the most annoying people on the planet.

If you want to deal in cold, hard statistics, there are only about three dozen people in the entire country who think mimes are funny, and these are mostly shut-ins, preschoolers from disadvantaged homes and victims of industrial accidents in which severe head trauma has occurred.

For the rest of us, the sight of a mime triggers an immediate tightening of the stomach and fight-or-flight response, with most people reporting the overwhelming urge to get a poke in at the mime if at all possible.

Unfortunately, I had my first run-in of the season with a mime at the recent St. Patrick's Day parade.

The sun was shining on this particular slice of Charles Street and everyone was having a fine time until this mime rode up on one of those goofy unicycles mimes are so fond of.

Immediately, the crowd grew tense, since the only thing more annoying than a mime on a unicycle is a clown on stilts. Or maybe someone with a dog act.

Anyway, this mime was decked out in typical mime get-up: black pants, white shirt, red suspenders, white gloves. His face was painted white and his lips were painted red.

Badly misreading the situation, the mime hopped off his unicycle and began to perform.

First he mimicked the walk of a couple of passers-by, which mimes seem to think is a real hoot.

He fell in behind an old guy with a limp and followed him about 25 feet, until the old guy whirled around and threatened to kill him.

Then he started following a stout woman who swayed from side to side as she walked.

Naturally, no one laughed while all this was going on. Instead, the crowd began edging closer toward the mime.

I guess he thought people were getting into his act -- these mimes have incredible egos, why I don't know. But the truth was, people were moving closer so they could get a poke at him.

What generally happens in these situations is that someone finally becomes so annoyed that they take a swing at the mime.

And this sets off a chain reaction, with another and another and another person getting his or her shots in before the police come and break it up.

Anyway, the crowd was obviously growing surly. At this point, if the mime had any brains at all, he would have hopped back on that unicycle and pedaled out of there.

But, of course, he did no such thing. Instead, he launched into a few of the tired routines all these mimes do.

You know the ones I mean: Man Walking Against the Wind With An Umbrella, Man Walking Dog, Man Trapped In a Glass House, etc.

Oh, it was dreadful. On and on it went for, I don't know, 10 minutes or more.

By now, people were starting to brandish shillelaghs and umbrellas. And all I could think was: Someone dial 911 because they're going to kill this mime.

But this mime, he must have had a bowling ball drop on his head recently. Because he still didn't get the hint.

Instead of getting back on that stupid unicycle and leaving, he did something so incredible that even now it seems like a dream: He started passing the hat around!

The crowd, of course, was absolutely stunned.

Here this mime had inflicted some 15 minutes of pure agony on a group of law-abiding citizens and ruined an otherwise wonderful parade. And now he was asking the crowd for money!

Well. As you can imagine, people were just about out of patience at this point.

A young biker type in a black Harley-Davidson T-shirt growled: "You best get out of here, mime."

Then this little old lady, her face contorted with rage, swung her pocketbook at the mime and shrieked: "I say we git 'im!"

I guess a light bulb finally went off in the guy's head ("They . . . they don't like me!") because he jumped on that dopey unicycle and took off.

The sad thing is that with the warmer weather coming, more and more mimes will be annoying people at the various outdoor venues in and around the city. Heck, Harborplace is like the home office for mimes.

People wonder why tourism is stagnant down there.

I'd say the answer is pretty obvious.

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