I recently started attending open mic nights around the city to gain a little more experience and confidence in my performing. It’s a little bit of a process. The night begins at 6 pm when we leave our house an hour and a half before the sign-up starts, allowing time to fight through the rush hour traffic. Once we find a parking spot, plug the meter, and walk several blocks to the café, restaurant, or bar, I stand in line to draw a random number. I’ve done open mic nights in North Carolina, and in Lincoln a long time ago. There were like, 5 people willing to brave the stage. But in New York City, the anxious, artistic crowds are so numerous, the line is backed up out the door.
Some nights, I get lucky and draw a number under 20, other nights it can be as high as 50. And at 8 minutes or 2 songs per person, that adds up to a late, late night of waiting your turn. At a recent open mic night, Eddie and I sat at our small, round table drinking water and feigning interest for hours. And while most nights, the talent is enjoyable, other nights it’s just plain atrocious. This happened to be one of those nights. Because the crowd is generally considerate of whoever performs, whether it be a magician, comedian, heavy metal guitarist, rapper, or otherwise, we found ourselves desperately trying to restrain our looks of surprise and confusion at some of the artists.
Eddie left midway through the evening to plug the parking meter, leaving me alone to sit through a maddening series of talentless singing and obscene lyrics. When he returned, he discreetly took his seat and we silently exchanged glances of, “we’re in this together.” Most places require a 2-drink minimum, which for 2 people who’ve already paid $8 in toll fees and $10 for parking, adds up to a lot. We usually order 2 Sprites at a time and suffer through the night with stomachs growling. But when Eddie returned that night, he pulled out…the magical boredom beads. Skittles. He purchased them at a convenience store on the way back from plugging the meter.
It may not sound like much to you, but when you’ve experienced mind-numbing boredom for 4 hours, with several left to go, and had your ears flooded with chaos and tone-deaf shouting, those tiny, fruitalicious, colorful candies are like a savior. Eddie spread them out on a napkin, lining them up by color, and we took our sweet time slowly eating them one by one. And though our ears were practically bleeding, and our back and neck muscles were stiff, at least our mouths were happy, if only for a few moments.