“Can I get a volunteer from the audience?”
AKA, the worst question you could ever hear.
I have a fear of participating in any type of setting: the classroom, social events, and especially as part of an audience. I think it’s the idea of having people stare at me and having nothing to say. Or more specifically, nothing normal to say. My brain literally just shrivels up into a lifeless piece of tissue. Likewise, my vocabulary shrivels up into nonexistence and all I can say is “uhhhhhhkjsdfasf.”
This is why I stick to writing.
So when given a choice, I always choose to do the opposite as Katniss: “I don’t volunteer!”
But of course sometimes, life just doesn’t care.
Sometimes it will grab you and just drag you onto the stage anyways.
One time I went to a Japanese cultural festival and it was as awesome as it sounds. Stalls selling daifuku and dango, tables of kawaii Japanese stationary and merchandise, and a nice big stage with performers.
A stage that will come to haunt me for many years to come.
I was sitting in the very back row (where I formerly thought was the safe-zone), watching a group of taiko performers. Taiko is a Japanese drum by the way. Typically a performance includes a lot of yelling and some choreography – it’s supposed to be like thunder! They are also used in Japan as defibrillators. Just kidding.
Taiko is usually a little theatrical, and in this performance, they had some overly-enthusiastic guy dressed as an “oni.” (An oni is basically a Japanese ogre.) It was near the end when they asked the dreaded question.
“So, who would like to be our volunteer?”
That was my cue to be suddenly transfixed by my shoelaces.
The oni scanned the audience before he jumped off the stage and ran down the aisle, looking for its victim.
I started using all the tricks I learned over the years – avoid eye contact, look at my phone, draw a pentagram around me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the oni stop right beside me.
Maybe it was the mask, maybe something possessed me. But I just had to look up.
The eye contact lasted two seconds too long.
The oni literally grabbed my arm, pulled me out of my seat, and started dragging me towards the stage!! I tried to hold onto my chair for dear life but it was too late; next thing I knew, I was staring wide-eyed at the audience.
All I could think was, why me?! I mean, there were people raising their hand! Why on earth would you choose someone who clearly does not want to publicly humiliate themselves, unless you’re some kind of sadist?
So there I was, in front of hundreds. The oni put a drumstick in my hand and gestured towards one of the taiko. I was supposed to play it?! I feebly hit the drum. It sounded like a noise a drum would make right before it died – the audience actually laughed at me. The oni rolled his eyes and violently hit the taiko while yelling, “HA!!”
Great, now I was supposed to yell. I’m pretty quiet – I think I’m actually physically incapable of yelling. But I tried anyways.
The audience laughed again, and this time, so did I. This…This was actually fun! I played a little bit more with the group (while still yelling like a maniac) before I went back to sit safely in my seat.
…and I lived!
So the moral of the story: You won’t die when you make a fool of yourself. It might actually be kind of fun! I was so embarrassed in the beginning before I realized, who cares? I always imagine the worst in my head but sometimes I think I just have to let loose a little. So go have fun, do something stupid and cringe-worthy because even if it’s as awful as you thought it would be, at least you can laugh about it later!