The call that came over the police scanner went like this: “Units, please respond to Oak Street, near Blake, for a report of a man lying in the grass.”
Call me a loafer if you will, but I did not overturn my chair rushing to this scene. Granted, it could have developed into the Big One I’m always waiting for. But I envisioned the police response going something like this:
Cop: “Hey, there, fella. Whatcha doing?”
Prone guy: “Lying in the grass. What are you doing?”
Police are always getting called out to different parts of the city where people are said to be acting strangely. But to me, strange behavior is relative. Is the woman who ceremoniously twirls in circles before every sidewalk crack acting strangely? Or is she aware of some obstacle from another dimension of which you and I are not aware?
Exactly. Odd behavior is a matter of interpretation. And with this in mind, a few colleagues and I concocted a plan. With the help of some enthusiastic, unpaid volunteers (you), we will orchestrate bizarre behavior and see how long it takes to get reported.
One of you will be asked to walk backward as you move about the downtown area. Stroll through Kennedy Park in reverse. Stop into Victor News for a magazine and walk backward to the counter. Be careful around thorn bushes and curling irons because girlish screeches will get you disqualified.
I guarantee someone will report this behavior to police in minutes. And in even less time, police will investigate and determine, after careful consideration of the statutes, that there is no law against walking backward.
I need one of you to walk a stuffed animal on a leash through a heavily populated area. It can be your little tickle bunny, your beloved Pooh or just some furry thing your last boyfriend bought for you before you dumped his sorry butt. I don’t care. As long as you strap a leash around its neck and drag it through a park, drawing the disgust and concern of your peers who believe they are qualified to identify odd behavior. Police response: 6 minutes.
Others will be asked to simply stand somewhere downtown and stare at the sky. Hilarity will be soon forthcoming, because it is human nature to look up when somebody else does. Several people will become victims of overfed birds. But our actor will stand in that position for an indeterminate amount of time until some wary do-gooder makes a call. I estimate 15 minutes will result in a call to the gendarmes.
A couple of you will need to pair up for a lively game of catch. I’ll need you to stand 50 feet apart throwing a ball back and forth and making elaborate catches and favorable comments about your friend’s prowess.
I’ll need you to fret and cuss whenever you miss a pass and have to go retrieve the ball. The twist here is that your ball will be imaginary. Bonus points if you accidentally hurl it at a car window and then take off running. I predict you can get away with this for nearly an hour before someone reports you and your friend as complete loons.
Much heralded will be the volunteer who wanders the city mooing at everyone he passes. No need to get elaborate with these bovine exchanges, a simple “moo” will do. Moo hello to a stranger, moo your requests to a store clerk, moo your anger at a passing motorist. There is no doubt that police will come within 20 minutes, so you’d better get mooving.
It is absolutely essential that one of you dons scuba gear and wanders through the city. Yes, you need to wear the flippers. Yes, you need to have the oxygen thingy in your mouth. You will flip and flop everywhere you go and the cops will be sent for you in roughly 15 minutes. I would guess even less time, but there is a good chance witnesses will find the sight so odd, they might question their own sanity for a moment or two.
The more amorous of the players will be asked to roam around kissing trees. It can be a quick peck, or a long, romance-movie makeout session, whatever you choose. Those who choose the latter will draw the suspicion of myself and other organizers of this experiment, but no matter. We’re all adults here. Cops will come within 20 minutes and they may have to search extra hard to determine whether any existing law applies. Not to worry, though. They’re barking up the wrong tree.
Play chess with an invisible partner and engage in loud arguments over the game. Come to attention at every dog or cat you see, salute and say, “Sir, yes sir, commander!” Stand on Park Street and pretend to be a parking meter. Offer to photograph strangers with an imaginary camera.
In Lewiston, the police have seen it all. To draw attention, we need to be creative. I welcome suggestions and I appreciate your hours of volunteer time. Now I have to go take my dog for a walk. Stuffing is starting to pop from a seam and I don’t need that kind of mess on the floor.
Mark LaFlamme is the Sun Journal crime reporter.