Passing out Flyers

Passing out Flyers Downtown on a Saturday
Erin M. Murphy

On the night I visited 11 Walton Street for the first time (the same night I agreed to rent a $400 tiny room in a ghetto neighborhood), the dog behind his fence and Michael Tree weren’t the only living beings I met when I arrived. Steven was also here, and I learned later his father is the one who actually owns the Walton house.

Steven stood there on the back porch in darkness with his long black hair and checkered pajama pants. Even with the lack of lighting (which is more eerie now looking back than I remember it feeling then—considering I was standing with two strangers…in a junkyard…in the ghetto…) I could still make out traces of mysterious hair attached to his pants. They were thick, white, animal-like hairs just dangling there against the patches. As far as stereotypes go, Steven looked like a stoner. Back then I wasn’t aware that most people here in Asheville rarely fall under stereotypical categories regardless of their appearances. They’re all different from what one might initially suspect, yet they’re all the same too. Despite these facts, I was right. Steven is most definitely a stoner.

“Hey, if you’re not doing anything tomorrow and would like to hand out flyers for me Downtown, I’ll get you a free ticket to my show tomorrow night.” Steven told me.

Being that he just witnessed me agree to rent a random room after only three minutes of walking around the house and hardly asking questions, he obviously sensed my desperation and vulnerability.

“This girl just responded to a craigslist ad and is moving into this shit hole of a house without the slightest bit of hesitation. Has she even looked around this place? Is she even listening to Michael Tree muttering strange sentences right now?” He was probably thinking.

Whether he meant to or not, Steven used my desperation to his advantage. He must have figured since I was new in town and had yet to make friends, I’d be happy to find purpose handing out his flyers. And he was right. I was more than willing to take on the task, and I even felt happy.

“Sure, I’ve got nothing better to do. What kind of show is it?” I asked.

“It’s an electronic dance music concert and I designed the lighting.”

“Great.” I told him, though electronic dance music has never been my favorite.

Then he walked across the backyard onto his own back porch to retrieve the flyers.

***

Passing out flyers to random people on the street sounds a lot easier than it is in reality. It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Downtown Asheville and I tiptoed on the sidewalk holding a thick stack of papers, feeling like an idiot.

“Who the fuck is this girl wearing that weird headband and why is she shoving flyers at my face?” I imagined everyone was thinking.

I felt like whether they were tourists or not, these people could sense that I just moved to town and had no idea where I was going, or what my flyers were even advertising. A couple of people asked questions about the event that I couldn’t answer, so I just smiled a lot and used my creativity, hoping it would be enough to make them believe I knew what I was saying.

The hardest part of handing out the flyers was deciding who to hand them without seeming judgmental.

I kept thinking, “That person doesn’t look like they’d be into electronic dance music.”

But how the fuck am I supposed to know what a person’s “into”? There are hundreds of thousands of people out there (probably millions even) who have strange sexual fetishes like licking feet or eating piss and they’re walking around everywhere without the rest of the population knowing. I think sometimes, a person’s taste in music can be just as intimate as any sexual fetish, so how was I supposed to know who would appreciate the flyers?
The only resolution to this inner conflict seemed obvious. I had to hand every single passing person a piece of paper from my large stack whether they liked it or not. That is the definition of advertisement after all, isn’t it?

After a mere twenty minutes of fulfilling my duty as the flyer girl, I decided to quit and walk back to my car. It was getting hotter outside and I couldn’t remember how much time I fed the parking meter. Time is money. I remembered reading an article back in college about how that is one of the most popular metaphors in which we live by. Parking meters are a literal example. Fuck, I should have thought of that two years ago when I was writing my paper. Oh well.

Steven told me I didn’t have to hand out the whole stack, though I’m sure he expected for me to invest more effort and spent more of my time (you see, time is fucking money) than I actually did. It was nice having a momentary purpose on my first Saturday afternoon as an Asheville resident. I didn’t regret agreeing to the task but I did feel something else. For the first time, I realized I came eleven hours to make a new life for myself and my world no longer had to revolve around doing favors for other people. I thought about this being selfish, but it wasn’t as if I was opposed to doing people favors and practicing kindness. I just became aware of the choice and the appropriate circumstances for such favors. A feeling burned inside me as I walked back to my car in the Southern sun—This is all for me. This is my chance. The feeling burned and spun inside my gut and it didn’t make me feel guilty. It felt right.

Write.

I whispered the word inside my lips as I approached my Toyota Camry. A piece of paper with someone else’s writing scrawled across the bottom was wedged between my windshield wiper.

Oh good, my first Saturday Downtown and my first parking ticket. I ripped the yellow paper free of the wiper then forcefully stuck it inside my glove compartment. Pulling out of the parking spot, I passed the parking patrol officer as he was writing another ticket for another unlucky guest. His uniform was white with blue patterns and it reminded me of something a mailman might wear.

I drove by slowly and smiled genuinely while waving at this man. He smiled too and raised his hand while looking confused. He probably thought I was being an asshole. I wasn’t.

It’s not his fault, I thought to myself. He’s just doing his job. And I felt sorry for the man as I pictured him performing this same process for hours on repeat, forcefully passing out pieces of paper to angry strangers.

All because he hasn’t realized—This could all be for him. This could be his chance.

***

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