Mime Union on Strike, We Think
From Invisible Wire Reports
NEW YORK—The nation’s largest mime union went on strike this week, at least we think so, according to several sources Wednesday.
Dozens of the white-faced mutes were gathered in Times Square on Wednesday morning, forming what many bystanders interpreted as a picket line.
“There were a bunch of them in line out there, carrying invisible signs”, reported John Buss, a tourist from Wisconsin. “At least, I think that is what they were doing. They might have been pulling something with invisible ropes draped over their shoulders.”
Joel Haddock, a hotel doorman who is accustomed to seeing pantomime performers on the sidewalks, was similarly unsure whether the actions constituted a strike. “Have I noticed anything unusual the past couple of days? Not really,” he replied, in response to a reporter’s question. “I mean, they’re mimes. They are always unusual. I suppose if they started talking, that would be unusual. But they still don’t say (anything).”
Attempts to confirm that the unnamed union was on strike were unsuccessful, as union officials declined to comment. Calls placed to several mimes’ hand phones may or may not have been returned.
However, most bystanders agreed that the scene resembled a strike. Instead of performing their usual “work”, several mimes were seen sitting on invisible chairs around the square, idly reading non-existent books or pretending to press buttons on what might have been TV remotes. One mime appeared to be knitting to pass the time, though perhaps she was just twiddling her fingers.
The apparent strike comes after a union meeting last week. The meeting, which was held on the street in a large room with invisible walls, was attended by over 100 unionized mime workers. Many of them took turns at the podium, which was defined by where their hands came to rest in the air in front of their chests. According to witnesses, the “speakers” were clearly agitated, though none of them actually spoke.
Labor talks broke down before they even started. The mimes went on strike the next day.
It is not clear what demands the union members have that are not being met, but strikes are usually held when a union’s workers want better pay, benefits, or working conditions. When asked, one picketer hinted as much when he pretended to cradle a baby in his arms and then pointed to his open mouth, which may indicate that he has a family to feed. Or, perhaps he is a cannibal who prefers children.
“There are a lot of reasons why mimes might feel the need to go on strike at this point in time”, reported Dr. Leslie Scott, a performing arts instructor at Rutgers University. “The price of petroleum-based white face paint is going up. And though their make-believe cars may not use gas, those in their audience have real cars and real houses that are all affected by rising energy prices. Less extra money means fewer and smaller tips.”
“Plus, there is the fact that people find them annoying and that nobody, in general, likes them,” she added. “That could leave them feeling unappreciated.”
Indeed, of all the recent strikes in the entertainment industry—including the ongoing strikes by Hollywood writers and Broadway stagehands—the mime union’s strike is by far the least important.
“Hell, I like it better this way”, explained Bobby McClung, a regular visitor to the city. “At least now they are all in one place, and it is easier to avoid them.”
Jersey resident Thomas Hall agreed.
“I still had one bug me to sign a petition today,” Mr. Hall said. “Or something like that. He handed me a fake pen and held out his hand like he had a clipboard or piece of paper in it. I finally signed the thing just so he would leave me alone.”
“I used a fake name and address, though”, he added, grinning mischievously.
A few people were more sympathetic to the strikers’ plight.
“I hope they get this resolved and can get back to work soon”, said Carly Jones, a West Side resident. “I mean, they may be mimes, but they still have to eat, right? No, really, I’m asking a question. Do they eat? Because I’ve seen them munch on thin air during lunch breaks.”
For better or worse, there are no indications that the mimes’ strike will be over soon. When asked about a possible timetable, a union spokesman had nothing to say.
© 2007 by Kevin McConaghy. All rights reserved.