On the Etsy forum tonight, someone was asking for ideas for a project to do for a social research methods class they are taking, with the assignment to violate a common custom and then record others' reaction to it. My suggestion was to sing loudly in line at the grocery store or sitting at a restaurant table, something random such as the National Anthem, My Heart Will Go On, or Kung Fu Fighting. And this reminded me of something.
Years ago, I was in the grocery store in West Memphis, Arkansas (just across the river from Memphis, TN) on a Saturday afternoon. Just a typical day, buying typical groceries.
When I walked in, I thought it was odd to see a large karaoke machine at the front by the carts, but whatever. Probably it was just used as a makeshift PA system for some reason. Ho-hum.
I had been shopping for about 10 minutes when the music began to swell. Much louder than the typical Muzak. Then someone began singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", ala "Elvis." I began looking around to make sure that I wasn't the only one hearing this (because if I was, it was time for my meds).
Turns out, this particular grocery store had an Elvis impersonator who worked in the meat department, and they decided to let him sing for the customers. Not something fun and peppy like "Blue Suede Shoes" or "Jailhouse Rock." No, we lucky customers got a powerful, lengthy, intensely-overly-dramatic rendition of a song designed to bring tears to your eyes and the Lord into your heart.
While shopping for groceries.
Now unfortunately, I had the opposite reaction than what I'm certain the singer was hoping to illicit. I got me some serious church-giggles. The louder and more dramatic he sang, the more I had put my hands over my mouth while my entire being shook with unreleased laughter. By the time he finished his "Glory, glory, haleluia"s, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.
I wasn't the only one.
At the end of the song, I'm sure he was expecting a thunderous roar of applause from the lucky patrons. However, it came out more like a golf clap. Between giggles and snorts, people were looking at each other like, "Should we clap? Yeah? Really? Seems weird, you know, to applaud in the Kroger, but OK. Not really sure about this."
I had to hang out in the frozen foods for a while, until I could compose myself. I did not want to go up to check out and let him see me. I knew I would bust out laughing, and I was helpless to control it. So avoidance was the only answer.
The emotions were a combination of confusion, a complete sense of inappropriateness on my part, and pity for the singer. Frankly, I don't even know if he was good or not. The oddness of the entire situation made everything fuzzy.
But maybe this guy was taking a social research methods class and this was his assignment. In which case, bravo! I'm sure he got an A.