One of the most powerful experiences of my journey was when I came upon other walkers. My first encounter was with 3 other walkers, standing still at the curving path of Santa Monica at the corner of Melrose. Everyone took your instructions to heart, silent, standing still, staring straight ahead, neutral expressions. As I joined the group, I wondered: Could I live up to the lovely tableau they created? Although no words were spoken, I felt accepted, no judgement. A long silent standing still, peaceful. Then at the exact same moment, as if some unheard command was given, we all dispersed and went our separate ways.
I found that every time I encountered walkers, this type of beautiful and mysterious grouping and ungrouping happened simultaneously. We took our cues from ourselves and other walkers. Walking together in single file on narrow sidewalks, stopping to stand at visually interesting backgrounds, feeling other walkers joining me on wide sidewalks in tandem, forming diptychs. It was dancelike, and had a strong emotional impact on me.
I gave a card to every person who asked me what we were doing. The responses to our work seemed to vary by social class. The rich lady with the pedigreed and perfectly-groomed dog: "ACK-xcuse me, why are you all walking around with artwork?" The card, the smile, then continuing on my walk. "But this doesn't explain it, wait, why are you walking away from me?" Frustrated that she was not in the know of what was happening. I found that the rich people were more annoyed by the fact that there was something going on that they had no knowledge of. They wanted the facts, ma'am! (Ironically, her own initial question actually described exactly what was going on: Walking around with artwork.)
The happiest encounter I had was with a homeless man and woman. At that point, there were 3 of us walkers traveling the narrow sidewalk of Beverly Blvd in single file. As we passed the homeless couple, I heard them comment to each other:
Woman: "Oh, I like those first two, they look nice together."
Man: "Well, I like all three."
Woman: "The colors."
Man: "Wait, turn around. Look, they're different on the back!"
Woman: "Oh, now I like all three."
The homeless couple got it. Enjoy the art. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the colors. Public art is a gift, and these folks received it with surprise and delight.
I figured that being a walker would be a fun thing, but I had no idea how powerful the experience would be. Wearing a sandwich board and bowler hat means that a person interacts in a new way with the environment, the people on the street, and fellow walkers.
I especially enjoyed the silence: Knowing I would not have to answer anyone's questions, solve anyone's problems, win any debates. It was a wonderful freedom.