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Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun City

Quick, think of a major world city that is hostile to the idea of pillow fights and whipped cream.

Riyadh comes to mind.  So does Islamabad--let's face it, any city with "Islam" in its name is unlikely to sanction pillow fights.  For that matter, cities beginning with "Vatican" probably have similar biases.

The Solipsist is going to go out on a limb, though, and speculate that none of his faithful readers named "San Francisco."  Heck, most non-residents probably assume that visitors to this fair city are issued pillows and whipped cream upon disembarking at SFO.  (Actually, airport employees only issue whipped cream; visitors are encouraged to retain the pillow they receive on the airplane.)  Sad to say, though, that it is none other than the city by the bay that is cracking down on what may be the world's largest "organized" pillow fight.  

Every Valentine's Day for the past four years, a "flash mob" of sorts has staged a massive pillow fight at the Embarcadero.

(Digression: Since this has become a semi-regular event, it does not strictly meet the definition of a "flash mob," one characteristic of which is that they are somewhat "secret" so as to take observers by surprise.  Nevertheless, the spirit of antic fun implicit in a pillow fight certainly lends itself to the flash mob ideology.  End of digression.)

This year's festivities were the largest and longest so far.  Anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 people participated, and the action, which began at 6:00 PM didn't end until after midnight.

(Digression: Can you imagine pummeling people (and being pummeled) with pillows for over six hours?  How  much Red Bull would one have to drink?  End of digression.)

The city is upset at the overtime and other costs incurred from having to clean up the mess left behind.

Now, the Solipsist is certainly sympathetic to the municipal authorities who have to clean up other people's messes.  At the same time, the total extra cost came to $19,000.   The city's budget for 2008-9 was over $6 billion; the budget for the Recreation and Park Department was over $137 million.  The point?  $19,000 is a rounding error.

Yes, these are troubled times for the economy, and government needs to be frugal.  But in dark times like these, people need the occasional whipped-cream coated pillow battle to keep up their spirits.  $19,000 to allow people to blow off some steam seems like a reasonable investment.

Addendum: For those who are interested, several web sites organize and document flash mob activities, including improveverywhere.com and eatbrains.com (which specializes in zombie-themed flash mobs).  Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Some people thrive on turbulence, Mr. Solipsist...
    But that't why there are horseraces.