I don’t read much when I’m nearing the end of a long writing project, preferring instead to focus all of my energy on reaching the end. The first thing I do when I finish, however, is cram words into my brain as fast as I can, probably in a subconscious effort to replace the ones I’ve recently pulled out. The first book I read after completing my latest work in progress was The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin.
We all remember that Icarus was warned not to fly too high, but we often forget that flying too low is also dangerous. In his book, Godin talks about the perils of following a course that is deceptively safe, and that behavior that used to be considered unsafe may actually be the best path to take after all.
Godin is talking about choosing nonconformity, creativity, and making art even, and especially, in seemingly mundane situations. He writes about art being an attitude, and claims that if we break new ground, perform our work tasks creatively, and make human connections, we are artists regardless of what our job titles might be.
I know someone who is a perfect example of Godin’s premise. Ok, I don’t know him personally. I don’t know his name, or where he lives, or anything about his family or friends, but I blew him a kiss the last time I saw him.
He works on the ferry between Mayport Village and Ft. George Island, directing vehicles onto and off of the deck, pointing each to its proper position to fit as many cars, trucks, and motorcycles as possible onto the boat for each crossing of the St. Johns River. I don’t know how long he has worked there. I’ve only taken the ferry a few times, whenever we drive up to Amelia Island. But each time I see him, he transcends competence and efficiency. He performs.
His hair is gray but his eyes are young and mischievous. His smile is river wide and contagious.
Like his colleagues, he makes eye contact with the occupants of each vehicle as he indicates the left, right, or center, easing them bumper to bumper in four parallel rows, every 30 minutes. Just shy of a mile later he directs everyone back onto land and begins the process all over again. This could be a dry, matter-of-fact experience for all involved, but it isn’t when he’s working.
He communicates not just with each driver, but also passengers who return his gaze. With exaggerated gestures he waves each to their space, and, minutes later, on their way. He smiles, and sings, and shouts. He shuffles and dances in and then out of the rows. He salutes and shrugs and spins.
He definitely makes an impression. He absolutely makes a connection.
When I blew him that kiss he caught it first on his cheek, and then on his heart, acting as if I’d made his day.
I hope I did, because he made mine by transforming an ordinary situation into a creative, endearing, memorable few moments that I can’t talk or write about without smiling myself. I don’t know what his job title is, but Godin is right.
He’s an artist.