It was a Saturday in mid-December and I had promised my son that I would take him to audition for one of these talent shows they televise.

It was a Saturday in mid-December and I had promised my son that I would take him to audition for one of these talent shows they televise. He enjoys singing or talking or whatever you call what he does. As his father and only having knowledge of tear-jerking and tractor cranking country music, my opinion is that he is pretty good.

The auditions for “America’s Got Talent” were held in various cities across the country and one just happened to be within a short driving distance for us.

We got to the hotel hosting the auditions about 30 minutes after they started lining folks up. The line was intimidating, wrapped around the building and up the block.

We found the end of the line and were given a number and waited.

Some of the folks around us seemed to have brought their entourage with them. There would be a large group of adults shielding a little girl dressed in either her Sunday best or like one of those little girls in “Toddlers & Tiaras.” I’ve never understood putting that much lipstick and “war paint” on a little girl, but that is their business.

There were dancers, magicians, poets, baton twirlers, hula hoopers and all kinds of other folks whose “talent” could not be easily recognized.

The television show does give some advice for those who wish to audition. They note you should be original, not be boring, be fearless and stand out from the crowd. If you were to take most any of these folks and put them in a normal crowd of people, I assure you – they would stand out.

As the line moved along, I kept thinking about P.T. Barnum’s success with “freak shows.” This is exactly what these folks were doing. Judging from those who were going to audition, it seemed the television show was as or more interested in “strange,” as they were talent. I kept looking for “Jo-Jo, P.T. Barnum’s Famed Dog Faced Boy,” but I never saw him or heard him bark.

With the waiting, you would think one would get tired or frustrated. I was neither. I was getting a free show. It was a show that didn’t even cost a dime to see. There were some fellows who called themselves “agents.” To be honest, one fellow dressed in suede or plush velvet suit with a bright red hat actually looked like he should be conducting some other sort of transactions. I steered way clear of this fellow.

In the middle of this pleasurable insanity, my son and I found a girl in her early twenties standing behind us in line. She was alone and very “normal” looking. She didn’t have a baton, sword or leather pants that were painted on.

She seemed safe. Therefore, in my mind, I needed to see that she “stayed safe.”

I decided to ask her, “What is your talent?” She told me that she played the piano and sang. We talked about music, the crowd and other things as the line moved along. She had something about her that was different. Her smile was pretty, her wit was keen and her overall demeanor showed confidence.

Not confidence in her talent, but confidence in who she was and what she wanted.

There I was spending time with my son, getting to talk to a nice person and getting a free freak show. I was having a wonderful time.

As the line progressed, we finally moved into the hotel where they were scanning us for weapons and sharp objects. I guess the fellow who swallowed swords got a pass.

While we were waiting to be scanned, a group of little boys in white pajamas and different colored belts (some with kamikaze-like headbands) were cutting back and forth through the line following and yelling questions to a portly bald fellow.

“Sensei, where do we go?”

“Sensei, what do we do now?”

“Sensei, where do we take this?”

“Sensei, do we need to practice?”

The portly bald fellow in white pajamas with a black belt tied around the largest section of his middle seemed to be basking in his authority. He was their “Sensei,” or leader and he was “in charge.”

People like to be in charge.

Some people like me like to watch people who like to be in charge.

It was like I was watching a middle school play based on a Bruce Lee movie.  I didn’t have to buy a ticket, or doughnuts or even PTA wrapping paper. It was great.

We successfully passed through the boys in the white pajamas and the metal detector wand wielding folks and went into another room to get paperwork to fill out. I didn’t read the paperwork closely, but I’m sure it said something about the television folks having the right to ridicule your weirdness as much as they wanted to and you not being able to do anything about it.

The hotel was large and had many conference rooms. The “line” would now progress by moving groups of people from one conference room to the next. We stayed with the keen-witted young girl to protect her from the boys in the white pajamas and stray hula hoops flying through the air.

As we moved through these conference rooms, the folks who were there to audition took turns trying out their “talents” on those waiting in the room with them. Some were good, some were very bad. Some of the folks seemed angry, some of them seemed very sad.

For a number of the people there, it was almost like this was the first time that anyone had ever watched (or listened to) their talents. We didn’t have a choice, we were waiting. Again, it was actually very entertaining.

However, I was getting thirsty.

I left my son sitting in the conference room with the young lady and found the snack bar in the hotel. I brought back sodas for my son and me and a bottle of water for the girl. She seemed like the “water type.” I was correct.

She was appreciative.

We were in our second conference/waiting room and the young lady left to go to the restroom. She left her paperwork in her chair face up where nosey people could read it. I had been listening to heartbreaking poetry and strange music while watching bad Bruce Lee movies and mothers carrying armfuls of hula hoops for their sons dressed in tight shiny pink pants.

I looked down at the chair where the girl’s paperwork was.

Her name was “Mary,” that is all she wrote. In the space where they asked the question about what you wanted to do in the future or the rest of your life, Mary had written, “I want to do everything.”

She was “twenty-something” and she wanted “to do everything.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” I asked myself. I’m twice that age and honestly I still want to do everything.

Mary came back and I told her what I had done.

She smiled and we talked about it…

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