Thursday, May 07, 2009

The unintended consequences of dialogue and exchange

I have a friend. We'll call him Ernesto since (a) he is fictional and (b) I think the name "Ernesto" is hilariously loaded with connotations that have the potential to embellish this story. Feel free to picture Ernesto, a professional Easter Bunny, as you wish.

The other day, Ernesto was telling me about his experiences over the past several weeks. He and a bunch of the guys from the Easter Bunnies & Hiders of Pastel-Colored Things Union (EBHPCTU) Local #84 have been working really hard on a community service project with a group of guys from the Santa Clauses, Elves, & Deliverers of Mirth Union (SCEDMU) Local #378. Like, really hard: they've been getting together three or four times a week, three or four hours at a time, for the last six weeks, building a playground in a local park. In addition to the great enhancement to the city that the playground will be, it's also an opportunity for these diverse communities to come together and learn about each other's practices -- like, how the Santas learn to "Ho, ho, ho," for example, and why the Easter Bunnies hide eggs, which are generally laid by chickens.

Ernesto was telling me that, at first, the Santas and the Bunnies were on their best behavior, but then as things got more stressful, the stereotypes about each group started to be proven true.

The Santas walk around all privileged, as though their status as Christmas symbols entitles them to unfair advantages. "They eat everything in sight. Especially the cookies and milk," Ernesto told me. "And they just keep hohohoing at every damn thing we say, even though it's not all that funny."

But Ernesto said the Bunnies fulfill their share of stereotypes, too: hippety-hopping from assembling swingsets to putting together slides, hiding tools in the high grass, trying to keep all the carrots to themselves, etc.

And don't even get Ernesto started on the self-appointed project managers -- Bunnies and Santas, it should be made clear -- who think they know what they're doing because they once put up a playground in high school or they participated in a previous playground build. Or the little cliques that have formed, so that some people feel excluded -- especially some of the Bunnies and Santas back at the Union Halls who aren't part of the playground build project.

"The playground is going to be beautiful when it's finished this weekend," Ernesto told me. "It just feels like this experience was supposed to bring us together, and all it's done is help me realize two things. First, I can work hard at my part in building playgrounds and do a good job, but building playgrounds is not my calling. And second, stereotypes about those Santas -- and about us Bunnies -- are stereotypes for a reason; there's maybe some truth to them."

I asked Ernesto if he would be participating in any playground builds again, and he told me that he probably would not. But he heard that the EBHPCTU might be partnering with the Big Foots Union Local #94 on a float in his city's Irish Festival Parade in September.

And I can totally see him being a part of that.


shouldhavezagged said...

So is Ernesto going to be in another musical stage production put on by an interfaith community?

Scott S. Semester said...

Haha, it is unlikely.