Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers

*Knock knock*

“Who’s There?”


“Wobbly who?”

“Wobbly out in this weather when I know I will fall over? I’m very dedicated to my art, ok? Now offer me a seat on this train before it’s you I fall onto…”

Amtrak preemptively canceled some Acela routes and other regional commuter routes in advance of the snow this weekend. City transit authorities are posting their standard “expect delays on above-ground routes.” In addition to keeping us abreast of their plans to keep us safe – albeit possibly not on time – during the winter weather, both agencies also seem to be touting themselves as the solution to all the city’s partying needs lately.

On the way to Improv today, I saw ads introducing several bus and train operators who “skip the party, so you don’t have to.” I’m guessing several other class members also noticed the recent uptick in public transit emphasis on how their employees ensure we can have a good time by working while everyone else is playing. “Partying” was a prominent theme in our montages today.

There’s nothing more thematically appropriate for that inevitable first time I sublux something on stage and fall over than during a scene in which the administration of a “party school” with a name one letter off of the Ivy League discuss how to improve their image. This was a class, not a live show, so people stopped scene work and asked about me. I almost wished it had been a public show, though, as I doubt I will ever again get such a gift of a scene to play off a sublux and associated fall as “intentional” than during that one.

With a class, it’s…well…as awkward to bring up EDS in advance as it is to sublux something on stage. I’m in the dual position of both performing in indie shows with a troupe, but also simultaneously being a student. I have to actually graduate from the theater’s comedy school if I ever want to audition for anything solo, and graduating to each next level requires not just an instructor thinking I am ready in my performance capabilities, but also having missed no more than two classes out of any session. The Crisis of 2018 ensured that I wasn’t in the position to even contemplate that kind of attendance commitment for the past two sessions, so I never even bothered to register. I also fainted just before the first class of this current session and thus missed its very first class. So, no guarantees I will make the attendance requirement this time around either. My indie troupe – who are all now graduates – didn’t drop me when I got behind last year. I could conceivably have had my first onstage sublux happen during a real performance, with a team who have been warned in advance to just keep going and use the exquisite thematic timing to heighten, heighten, heighten.

But, as with last week’s hair appointment, I don’t typically get that lucky when introducing my diagnoses to new people. Explaining how I occasionally fall over – and to just give me a minute to see if I can reorient my own joints before treating it like a big deal – is still just…awkward. I never know how to respond to the sort of excessive solicitousness that people offer immediately after they first see me faint or pop a joint.

I, even more, don’t know how to respond to their concerns about how visibly unsteady I am walking to the train station in the “wintery mix” that had left the sidewalks wet and icy by the time class ended. My cane is very useful for mobility, but trying to navigate icy ground even with it is guaranteed to make me as unsteady on my feet as those partiers that the ads remind us diligent mass transit employees are happy to ferry home each Saturday night.

It seems, though, that I really should have insisted my classmates lean into the opportunities my “stage fall” afforded during the drunken party school scene. For, it seems that it isn’t just mass transit officials who have noted the market potential of catering to the drunks of an urban city with viable mass transit. The makers of Pedialyte – well known to zebras with dysautonomia as a relatively cheap and lower-sugar hydration drink option – have also gotten in on the action. If it wasn’t ironic enough to be reminded about how many partiers are unsteady on their feet on the transit lines on Saturday night on the way to class, it was a perfect capstone to head home just before the typical “Saturday night” crowd set out and discover that Pedialyte has also expanded their target audience beyond the dysautonomic set.

I snapped a less-than-perfect picture of the ad. If you can’t read it, it advertises Pedialyte as the solution to a “wild night.” I’m not sure whether to be more amused that their choice to expand beyond their core medical market likely ensures us “party poppers” with dysautonomia will soon be able to find hydration drinks for our most symptomatic days everywhere we need it – possibly including my theater, which does sell drinks during performances – or to roll my eyes at the idea that now when I walk down the street unsteady on my feet carrying a bottle of hydration drink, I can avoid awkward questions just by “yes, anding” the perception I had a great evening…

pedialyte_ad - copy
<Image Text>: Pedialyte being added to a Target cart with the words “Wild night? We got you.”

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.


9 thoughts on “Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers

  1. I can imagine that must have been awkward, and I think you must be incredibly strong to be able, and want, to use it as an integral part of your improv. Impressive. And the pedialyte ad – too weird. But if it helps you and others with accessibility then I suppose their marketing team is on to something. 😊💕 Amanda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are usually two chairs on stage. I would definitely have sat down for the rest of the scene, but I feel like the physical discomfort of waiting an extra 1-2 minutes (the absolute longest a scene could go on before even the funniest scene went off the rails without editing) is easier for someone who is fundamentally socially awkward and rejection sensitive than the mental discomfort of that “record scratch” moment when an entire class looks at you and *only you* like “explain.” I really don’t like that kind of attention being given towards “personal” things under my real name. Rejection sensitivity sucks, and even if they are sort of over solicitous about it, the setting me apart afterward hits the rejection button. However, if my indie troupe had just finished the scene and made sure I didn’t have to get off the chair for the next minute it would still have felt like I “belonged,” I guess?

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      1. I can totally see that. I think it’s a case of people not knowing the right thing to do, and with the hypersensitivity going around generally, I think the automatic reaction is to never do anything that might cause offense. It’s one of those examples of ‘you don’t get it until you get it’. But by sharing, hopefully you’re increasing awareness so next time, they make the most of it. I think that fear of being singled out is what stops me from getting out there. I went back to ballet class a couple of years ago and had to sit down when I got weak and dizzy. The teacher was amazing in many ways, but when she called me out that day I wanted to crawl under a rock. Much the way I felt as a teenager most of the time. 😳

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah. I bet there’s some lingering teenage stuff for me, too. Amid other unpleasant things about the 9th Circle of Hell (aka where I grew up), I was undiagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – but not unaffected by it clearly. It sucked when my physical therapist said the equivalent of how I needed to “relearn how to walk” at our first session after diagnosis because my entire way of moving had developed to compensate for my hypermobility in sub-optimal ways. It brought me right back to school, being bullied for “walking funny” constantly and not ever being able to participate in sports or other team things because my ankles were too frequently injured. I found a niche in activities, but they were always solo activities. I don’t have a history of being good with team things. Improv is nice because it is a team sport usually, where the goal is to play off what the scene needs, even if that means voluntarily giving focus to someone else. So, the direct competition and singled out feeling hasn’t been there, until, of course, I fell over on stage.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I was never a team sport person, although dance requires teamwork, I guess. Hopefully as you continue to educate your improv group, they’ll treat you like everyone else. You still get a medal for getting out there and doing it!!

        Liked by 1 person

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