Rain on My Parade - Please!
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Thanksgiving Day is approaching here in the U.S., and that means that on a very cold Thursday morning thousands of people will be lining up to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'll admit it, I don't get parades. They bore the heck out of me. Maybe it's because I'm more of a "doer" than a "watcher," but I can think of few less interesting ways to spend an afternoon. If my life were made into an existential play by Sartre, my Waiting Room would be on the streets of Manhattan watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Parades in the summer are bad enough, but a parade in late November? What's the appeal of standing in the cold watching people slooooowly walk by? Is it the balloons? The floats? Come on, that's fun for about twenty-three seconds, tops. Maybe it's like the old joke: "Q: Why are you hitting yourself in the head with a hammer? A: Because it feels so good when I stop!" There are few feelings better than one you get when you finally leave a parade...
You know what's worse than going to see a parade live? Watching one on TV. You get all the boredom of slowly moving participants without any of the excitement of an energized crowd or the spectacle of seeing large balloons up close in person.
To be fair, I'd rather watch a parade on TV because with one click of the remote I can be watching something far more interesting. Like four straight hours of the Weather Channel. It is also a lot warmer in my living room than on the streets of Manhattan. This is why watching the Weather Channel would be more fun - I can see exactly how cold it is on the parade route and laugh to myself while I relax in my jammies and pour myself a second cup of hot cocoa.
Obviously, society does not agree with me at all. Thousands and thousands of people come out to watch this parade, and over forty million people watch it on TV. And hey, if it's on TV, it can't be bad, right? There's even a song titled, "I Love a Parade." Obviously this was written by a lonely, lonely person who was desperate to find love anywhere. Maybe I'll write a song titled, "I Love a Root Canal." And where did the saying, "don't rain on my parade come from?" If I got dragged to a parade I would be praying for rain so I could go home. But if the rest of the world likes parades so much, then maybe I'm missing something.
Or maybe, just maybe, I am the lone voice of wisdom in an insane world. I'll say it, "the emperor has on no clothes! Parades are boring!"
I'm going to throw on my professional speaker/storyteller/writer hat here for a moment. We live in a storytelling culture. Since before man could write, information was conveyed as stories. TV, movies, theater - all appeal on their ability to tell a story. The best songs tell stories, whether lyrically or symbolically with the progression of the music. Sporting events tell stories: who's going to win, how is it going to happen? Even advertisers and marketers know, the best advertising tells a story.
What's the story in a parade? "Underdog needed to get across town, and he couldn't catch a cab (you know how it is when you are a superhero dog in New York City), so he decided to fly slowly down 7th avenue to get there. Oh, and he's followed by a horde of other outdated characters and a large crowd of dancers and floats."
No story. No interest.
If, on the off chance that you happen to be a "parade designer" - is that a real job? - here's a challenge. Design a parade that tells a story. Have Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera weave a tale that involves everyone from the first high school marching band to the final giant Pickachu float bringing up the rear. Make it all part of a story. Draw me in, progress the action, and wrap it up. Is that too much to ask?
There are, however three exceptions to the "parades are boring" theory:
- I understand ticker tape parades and parades to honor vets. Those make sense - get everybody out there and cheer and support. That's great. Like a giant adult pep rally.
- If you have children who are at an age where anything new and shiny makes them smile and giggle, then sure, you take them to see it. It's one of those things parent sacrifice for their kids, like a social life and any semblance of clean pants. That doesn't mean the parade is any good - you can get the same wide eyed giggles out of your child by clapping your hands and saying "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba" over and over. So there you go - a parade is the adult version of baby talk.
- On New Year's Day in Philadelphia there is the Mummers Parade, which is a *huge* deal. I have never been to it, but everyone raves about it. This is for two reasons.
- There are four different competitions within the parade where teams are awarded some serious money for funniest, best costume, best music, etc. Granted, the prize money is a small fraction of what the teams spend on their costumes (seriously - each costume can run a couple of thousand dollars). But that makes it a competition, not just a parade, which means there's a - wait for it- STORY! As an observer you're not just watching the parade, but you are also trying to figure out who is going to win.
- Everyone gets drunk. The parade starts in the morning, and so too does the drinking. New Year's Eve is not super huge or crazy in Philly, and I think that's because people are saving themselves for the craziness of New Year's Day. There is a palpable energy in the air on New Year's Day in Philly as the whole city is alive (and drunk). So of course they enjoy the parade. Even Waiting for Godot would be fun if the audience was tanked. (There's an idea: something along the lines of "The Rocky Horror Waiting for Godot Show") Hmm...maybe I should try this Mummers thing.
If you are a die hard parade enthusiast, then more power to you. I just don't get it. And if you agree with me, then I hope you enjoy the warmth and comfort of your home this year as you do anything but attend a parade!
Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
Avish Parashar is a dynamic professional speaker who shows organizations and individuals how to get what they want using the Art and Science of improv comedy. He weaves together humorous stories, witty observations, and interactive exercises from improvisational comedy to get people laughing, learning, and motivated! Avish is most commonly called upon to deliver programs on Motivation, Sales, and Communication
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