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Published: Tuesday, 8/12/2003

News flash! Trends tend to sink here

One of the more distinct characteristics of Toledoans is a willfully deaf resistance to the siren song of whatever it is “they” might be doing elsewhere.

Trendy? Us? Not in our collective lifetime. ...

This can be a good quality, as happened that winter a few years ago when all the truly chic women of Manhattan braved the elements bare-legged, without so much as the sheerest of stockings.

At that moment in couture history, women in Toledo were only too happy to remain oblivious to the fickle whims of fashion. Stockings? Not even. We wore thick wool tights!

On the other hand, whenever we're confronted with something new, it's exactly that kind of thinking that turns us into the sort of people who blurt, “But we've always done it that way!” without realizing how dangerously self-limiting such sentiment can be.

Example: That same smug disregard for new ideas has had us wondering, for the past dozen or so years, when all those new factory jobs we need so much might materialize.

And here we are again, failing to commit to another new social trend - except, this time, I can't tell if this is to our credit or our deficit.

Let's talk about flash mobs.

From the Word Spy Web site:

``(FLASH mawb) n. A large group of people who gather in a usually predetermined location, perform some brief action, and then quickly disperse. -v., -adj. . Note, as well, that flash mob has a wonderful synonym: inexplicable mob.''

The first flash mob assembled in New York in May. Three months later, European newspapers are now tripping over themselves to report on these ... what?

Part performance art, part absurdist theater, part guerrilla theater - maybe flash mobs just happen too fast for anyone to arrive at the definitive definition, so to speak.

Whatever they are, flash mobs are the product of Internet life; participants rely on Web sites and e-mail for instructions that have directed them to meet at a SoHo shoe store and act like tourists from Maryland. Or meet at Manhattan hotel lobby and burst into “spontaneous” applause, or gather in Central Park as “mobsters” who chirp like birds.

Over the weekend, San Francisco experienced its second flash mob when a big clot of people gathered in Delores Park at precisely 2:07 p.m. for a rousing but brief game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

As one organizer told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It's fun and childlike. I like things that are silly and purposeless. When do adults get to spin around in public for no reason?”

Given the California political climate, I'd say the Golden State will offer its adults more than ample opportunity to “spin around in public for no reason” for the next two months, but never mind, I digress.

Maybe one reason why flash mobs don't stand much chance of taking hold in Toledo is that we're just not used to crowds anymore - period.

I saw some wonderful photos of downtown Toledo back in the 1940s and '50s and the sight of those sidewalks, jammed with shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrians, looked completely out of place in this city.

Flash mobs? Here? Nah. We're too busy for frivolity.

Besides, there's no place to park.



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