I often wonder what percentage of people who are skill toy enthusiasts ply their skill in public.Either professionally (busking or on stage) or just waiting in the mall or walking down the street?I know it can be a challenge, as so many of us find our way to skill toys because we are introverts, or have anxiety or just a tough time talking to people.Handling those “Hey man, what’s that” or “Can I try it?” Or “Can you walk the dog?” Comments and questions can be stressful if you aren’t prepared for them.Even worse are the times when people look down on you “why are you playing with a kids toy, grow up” or the comments of “nerd”, “Dork”, “loser” or worse.I hate the idea of people not doing something that makes them happy because of a fear of social interactions.
I play everywhere I go. At the bus, at work, when walking. I have ADHD (like for real diagnosed and medicated, not the “oh yeah, I can never remember where I put my keys”) and it’s immensely useful for me to have something to do with my hands. I like to look on the random social interactions as an opportunity to improve someone's day, make a connection with someone who perhaps really needs that connection. “Hey man, what’s that?!” Can be handled a variety of ways. Simply telling them what it is and giving them a bit of history helps. With something obscure like Begleri people are usually gratified to have learned something. With yoyo there is always the challenge of having a beginner yoyo with you. “Can you walk the dog” gives you two options if you don’t have a beater with you. You can walk the dog with your $120 yoyo or you can tell them “We don’t walk the dog anymore. Yoyos have evolved into this wing shape, so we walk the parrot now”. Then you do a finger or arm grind. That usually “wow”s them enough to be good, if not throw in a rock the baby and you are good.
Handling negativity is hard. I personally have never had to deal with it in the context of skill toys, but I have the advantage of having started as an adult, I’m 6’2 and have been told that in general I’m not a very approachable person unless I’m making the effort. This defers a lot of people who might hassle someone smaller and younger. I had a friend once who didn’t throw in public when he was in High school because he already got hassled enough being short and Asian, adding a yoyo would just have been ammunition. To those that share his plight I’ll say that you aren’t alone and that eventually you get to leave high school and while the jerks stay jerks, as an adult you get to pick who you spend time with. Keep playing when you can and find friends who get you.
I actually once had a scary turn awesome moment. I was waiting at a sketchy bus stop at night yoyoing. A group of hooded, scruffy looking young men walked towards me. I was in a relatively safe part of town and wasn’t too worried, but you never know. What ended up happening is the very desirable “Holy $#%@ that’s awesome. How are you doing that? Show us some more”. Followed by some fist bumps, high 5’s and a happy parting of company, everyone’s nights much improved.
To the rest of you who do play in public, what are your strategies for these random encounters?
I’ll leave you with this video which made the rounds a while ago, a delightful case of a misunderstood skill toy and an encounter with a security guard that turned out how you want these encounters to!