It’s around 2000, 2001.  I got a paid gig in Norfolk, Virginia.  Halloween.  Ghost tours.  And they needed actors.  For $100.  I’m in.

I landed the role of a street sweeper who’d been wrongly imprisoned, perhaps executed, who then haunted Norfolk by sweeping the streets in prison stripes.  I don’t remember the character’s name or his detailed back-story, but I knew one thing – my job was to be funny and entertain long lines of patrons waiting to be admitted to haunted attractions.

How I entertained folks was up to me.  I suspect the promoters were only interested in characters telling “ghost” stories, but I was a little more industrious.  I wanted to get physical.

My shtick was simple and effective.  I angled myself behind unsuspecting passerby’s and followed sweeping noisily behind them with my big push-broom.  The moment the people I was in back of turned to see what my audience was laughing at, I’d stop and turn away and move off in another direction.  The “discovery” moments and the laughs of those I’d messed with set off even more ripples of mirth.

I was freaking Charlie Chaplin, man.  Trust me when I tell you I was getting the laughs.  The crowd loved me.  Yessiree.  I was rockin’ this show.

And then I got this young couple.  A guy and a girl – probably in their 20s.  I got behind them and followed, pushing the broom noisily on the sidewalk.


I followed them some more.  More loud sweeping.  And still no reaction.  The crowd starts getting into it.  The more I frantically sweep, the more the couple ignores me, and the more the audience howls.

Enter:  How to Stop the Show 101.

The couple comes to the crosswalk, waiting for the light.  I’m right behind them, grinning like a fool, at which point, the guy turns to me over his shoulder and gestures to his partner.

“Hey, man.  She’s deaf, okay?”

I stop.  Frozen in mid-sweep.

If there had been a hole the size of a football field next to me that you couldn’t see the bottom of, it wouldn’t have been deep enough.

The light changes.

They cross the street.

I continue to apologize from afar.