Last Wednesday, I got the November Omaha By Design e-newsletter. One of the articles was a call for volunteers to go downtown yesterday morning and participate in a photo shoot for a promotion of Complete Streets. That's where a city works to make their streets safer and more attractive and friendlier to pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit riders. They were having the police block 16th Street off between Capitol and Chicago Streets. They’d have us park our cars in a close grid right across the street to show how much room cars take up, then have the bicyclists with their bikes, the city bus and its riders, and some pedestrians.
This sounded like exactly the kind of thing one gets retired for, to have some fun like this. So I signed up, and yesterday morning, I made my way downtown, and found the right corner, and parked my car where they directed me, and then we all stood around in the 20 sunny, windy degrees and waited while the organizers and photographers figured things out. They thought for a few minutes they were going to have to draft one of the policemen’s cars to fill out the 30 vehicles, but then someone else showed up and all was well.
They had a big BIG jack platform on a flatbed truck, and the photographers and director of Omaha By Design, Connie Spellman, rode it up until it was oh, I don’t know, 15 feet high? So their eye level would be 20 feet or so? I don’t know. They were way high up.
They had 30 of us gather in front of the block of cars, and that was when I found out that 30 people, average age maybe 35, are incapable of counting off. Mind-boggling. We had to do it three times. During the fourth, I turned to look behind us, and witnessed a zombie, stiff-legged, arms stretched out front, eyes vacant, jaw lolling, shambling through the grid of cars to where we stood for the photo. It wasn’t actually a zombie, of course, it was just a guy IN JEAN SHORTS AND A TEE SHIRT IN TWENTY-DEGREE WEATHER come to see what all the fuss was about. What little discipline we had was, of course, shattered. But we re-grouped, and the zombie stood behind us - behind *me*, actually, and the volunteers and Number 31 (which he yelled out with great enthusiasm after Number 30 had called his number) proceeded to enjoy some 20 minutes of joshing around.
Someone asked him why he wasn’t properly dressed for the weather. He said he saw the commotion out his hotel window (16th Street ends at the back of the DoubleTree Hotel) and when he saw that block of cars he KNEW that what we needed was zombies, so he raced right down to help us out. He said he’d flown in to Omaha for the Motley Crūe concert Thursday night. Somebody asked where he was from & he said “Elgin.” (I assume Illinois?) He said he’s found Midwestern people are way, way more friendly than - someone pressed him: “Than where - New York?” but he finished his sentence saying “Well - than me.” I told him we weren’t going to do this for him every time he comes to town so he shouldn’t get used to it. That got a laugh.
Then the organizers had us disband and re-group as cyclists, bus riders and pedestrians, and Number 31 high-tailed it for the hotel double-time without even a wave. I think the cold must have finally got his attention LOL.
Next, I was a pedestrian. We were to pretend to be crossing the street, in front of the single-file cyclists and the 10 bus-riders oddly clumped together *in front* of the bus. The guy in front of me was movie-star handsome and I noticed he always faced toward the camera’s direction with a gorgeous smile. I teased him: “Making sure they get your good side?” and he immediately started vogueing, very funny. He must’ve been there with office-mates because several others started hoo-hah-ing him for it.
Then they were done! It took less than half an hour in all (from we volunteers’ POV) and it was a blast. I went off to have a rare breakfast at the pancake house and didn’t find out until later that they were giving us tee shirts. Connie mentioned it in an email later; she said she’ll get me one, too. I just wish we’d got Number 31’s name & address so he could get one too. He really MADE that little event, for me. We're supposed to get a picture and if I do, I'll post it here. Connie already said I could.