As part of our general effort to get out outside the walls of the church and interact with the community, as well as hand out Zion coffee mugs which emit impressions of our logo and URL into the minds of its users long after other marketing media have been forgotten, we set out with instruments (and mugs) to spread Christmas cheer outside two of our favorite local eating establishments, the Waldwick Whistle Stop and the Saddle River Gourmet Deli, whose music-playing permission we appreciate as much as we appreciate their ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches, respectively.
Tami Moses, who owns the Whistle Stop, recommended that we play during the 6:00-7:00pm hour because that’s when the northbound commuters are the thickest. We arrived a little before 6:00 and parked across the street, close enough so that Allie (on mug distribution duty) could re-up if we were overcome with willing mug takers.
Thomas took the camera with lightboxed flash and started running around taking photographs.
We had been warned by Tami that the exterior lights might not be bright enough to read by after dusk, so brought baseball caps and cap lights to wear. The weather was nice, which is important because Susan has an expensive flute.
Allie meanwhile set about engaging with anyone who came within rock-throwing distance of the restaurant. The vast majority of commuters were eager to get home to their families, and we did not seek authorization from the City of Waldwick to play on city property (which might have put us nearer to their paths). Allie was able to the ones who parked nearby, or whose commute took them up Frederick Street.
One problem that quickly became apparent is the people who she was able to reach thought she was soliciting donations and put money in the mug. We asked her to hold the mug from the bottom (not handle) showing the logo and asking them to check our our website URL on the back.
“It makes sense that they would think that,” said Susan after seeing it a time or two.
“We should have stuffed the mugs with M&Ms or something,” I realized. Note to self for next time.
“The way you do this for money,” advised Susan, who is a professional and paid her way through undergraduate school by busking, “is to prop your clarinet case up front, then find a pitiful-looking, large-eyed dog and tie his leash to the music stand.
Extroverted Allie got very few hits and was somewhat discouraged by the experience.
Thomas was delighted to be using a DSLR, so had the time of his life. I was pleased not to be making any more mistakes than I was, though the music was simple enough.
I had bought super-soft #2 clarinet reeds and and new, highly-rated-on-Amazon mouthpiece and was pleased that my out-of-shape mouth had held on as long as it did.
With a Scouting event happening at the top of the hour, we stopped playing right at 6:45 and took off shortly thereafter.
The following morning at 9:00 am we met back up outside the Saddle River Gourmet Deli.
After touching base with George (who is a long-time friend of Zion’s) we set up outside, but the weather was too drizzly for Susan’s flute (or either of our music books) so we displaced forty feet or so an awning over an unoccupied storefront.
We could tell right away that we’d all be busier.
Unlike at the Whistle Stop, where traffic ebbed and flowed with the passing of trains, here we had a steady stream of passers-by, including one man who parked near us for awhile just to listen from his car.
Susan is able to play flawlessly while at the same time scanning to make sure both kids were safe and to see whether potential “customers” were exiting cars or buildings.
On several occasions she started a third or fourth verse of a song I thought we’d finished to provide a suitable backdrop for Allie’s pitch.
The residents of Saddle River were unfailingly polite to Allie, even if they weren’t interested in taking a coffee mug.
People continued to give her money even after she explained that she only giving away mugs for free.
She quickly burned through the sack of four she had brought from the car, so went back and retrieved some more with help from her older brother.
“I think it helps,” said Susan “that we are so close to the church. You can see it from where we’re standing.”
One young gentleman, informed by Allie of her mission to get out the church’s site URL, declined to take a mug but instead photographed the back of the mug and told her he would look it up later.
We had to break away for a 10:00 pageant rehearsal, so followed some of the customers inside and grabbed pancakes, hot chocolate and some excellent grilled cheese sandwiches.
George offered to let us come back over the noon hour, but Susan had tickets to see an opera and was unable to make that time.
Fortunately Christmas has twelve days, so we should be able to fit another performance or two in before the end of the season.