It just figured that I would go to the wrong protest. There were two on opposite sides of town on the same day. So I kept asking,”where’s the protest?” and got directed further and further uptown. Soon I found myself with my “End water fluoridation” placard around my neck, the odd man out among a group of green men and women advocating against fossil fuels. Literally a great many of them were actually green. You’d think it was a green Halloween costume party. And many of those who weren’t actually green were wearing other kinds of costumes,windmills, and waterfalls, and there was a group of four holding up a solar panel, that was connected to a monitor which scrolled messages like, “StopGas.”
“Are you at the wrong protest?” a passerby asked me, laughing.
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, you are?” she said, as if she hadn’t been sure of herself. She took a closer look at my placard.
“When’s the water fluoridation protest?”
“Do you mean where?” I said.
“No, I mean, ‘when’. I might like to go to that one too.”
I told the serial protester that she and I were missing it. “That’s why I dressed up this way today,” I said. ” But I’m not sure exactly where it is.”
“Well,” she said, “we throw a nice protest. I think you’ll be happy here.”
Maybe there’s a reason for everything, I thought. I’d never actually been to a protest before. I had gotten interested in Fluoride after I found out I had an underactive thyroid. Apparently, Fluoride inhibits the thyroid. And not only that, but green tea has naturally occurring levels of Fluoride. And I had been drinking five cups of green tea, green again, for years, because everyone told me it was so healthy, and to add insult, I brewed it in fluoridated water. It made me mad.
But I suppose I breathe in pollution too, and that can’t be good. So what the hell? Maybe I could be happy here, I thought.
“Who are we actually protesting,” I asked the lady.
“Well we thought we would protest Exxon-Mobile, but they don’t have offices here. So we were going to protest at city hall, but they wouldn’t give us a permit. So we’re just up here, cause its where we’re allowed. We have to stay above Juniper street.”
“These protests are hard to find.”
“I know, right?” she said.
I thought I would ask her what she thought the protest could do way up here where no one cared, nor could find us, unless they happened to be looking for a different protest, but she seemed happy. And I didn’t want to ruin that.
I said, “see you later,” to the lady, without exchanging phone numbers, and mingled. I was able to borrow a green sharpie from a green dude, who had used it to cover his face. He would have to go to work on Monday, still green, because those sharpies don’t wash off easily. I used it to write, “…and gas” at the end of my sign, after “End water fluoridation,” said,”thanks,” and sauntered away to meander among this rather docile crowd. At some point they brought in sandwiches and bottled spring water, which doesn’t have any added fluoride. I ate a sandwich and drank a water, and struck up a conversation with the solar panel group about how happy I was to have natural spring water.
“You know about plastics, right?” one said.
“No, what?” I asked.
“Chemicals,” another said.
“And petroleum in the plastic,” another said.
“Then why are we drinking it?” I asked.
“It’s free,” they said.
I soon bored of all this and my placard was getting heavy. But I stayed because I had made an investment and I was still looking for a reason for being there. I secretly hoped that someone would get radical and force us into a confrontation with the police. But there were no police.
About four o-clock the sun was casting a nice golden hue on things, and I began to realize that I had wasted my day. I desperately wanted more, a cosmic purpose, if there was one for everything, my hypothyroidism, coming to the wrong protest. There had to be some meaning in it. Maybe, somewhere here was the woman I would marry. Maybe I would find that “Stopping Gas” was the bigger cause I was really destined to be into. But mostly people just stood around, and I really couldn’t get too motivated. The only exciting part of the day happened just as I was wondering when this thing was going to end. The solar panel people electrocuted themselves and an ambulance was called. A crowd huddled around and watched the four of them loaded on stretchers into one ambulance. No one talked to them. Nobody went with them. The possibility occurred to me that no one here knew each other. After the ambulance left, the rest of the protesters left. I was the last one. I outlasted them all.
I tried to find meaning in that. But there wasn’t any.