England

Bad luck in Covent Garden, or why I’m now terrified of magicians

I loved being in London last year, but had the worst damn luck. On day one my bank cards didn’t work, on day two I would be a magician’s assistant against my will, and on day three I ended up meeting a serious creeper.

This one is about day two. I was walking around Covent Garden alone when I saw a street magician who was quickly gathering a crowd. He had a mean-spirited sense of humor and teased everyone around him, baiting them into yelling something back then sticking around for the show.

When there were maybe 100 people gathered around, he started picking people at random to say where they were from. I got a few “ooooh’s” when I said I was from the US.

“DID YOU COME HERE TO WORK ON YOUR ENGLISH!?” the magician cackled, and the crowd erupted in laughter. “WHERE IN THE STATES?!” When I said New Jersey, he pretty much lost his shit. After a while, he moved on to a few other people then said it was time to pick an assistant.

I felt a sinking sensation in my chest, and right then I knew: he was going to pick me unless I left immediately. I turned around, but it was too late.

“MISS NEW JERSEY! GET OVER HERE!”

The crowd parted for me, and I was horrified. I’d like to re-emphasize that I was there alone. For a brief moment I thought of making an excuse to leave, but nothing came to mind. I slowly made my way to the center of the circle.

He asked me to pick a card, look at it without telling him, then put it back in the deck. He made a few more jokes at my expense and then ignored me completely for more than 20 minutes. I stood there crossing and uncrossing my arms, wondering what my facial expressions looked like, and–as time moved on–if I was supposed to merge back into the crowd.

Then he handed me a huge, heavy pogo stick that had been laying on the ground. “MISS NEW JERSEY! I NEED YOU TO BOUNCE ON THIS POGO STICK!”

I laughed and said, “What? No!” It was old and looked like it weighed fifty pounds; I was positive I’d eat shit the second my feet left the ground.

“YEP, GET STARTED.”

“Wait, seriously?”

I fought with him about it until he said sharply, “JUST DO IT!!” I tentatively put both feet on it and did two small, pathetic bounces, nearly tumbling forward at the end. The crowd laughed.

He threw a bunch of his playing cards on the ground and started bouncing around the circle. “NOW MISS NEW JERSEY, I NEED YOU TO TELL EVERYONE WHAT CARD YOU PICKED EARLIER.”

I looked at him, stunned. I had no idea. It had been half an hour ago and I didn’t know I was supposed to remember it.

I realized that I was going to ruin the entire trick.

The seconds ticked by and I tried frantically to remember. It hadn’t been an ace or a face card…how many symbols had there been? I took a guess. “Umm…ummm…five of…” It had been black, right? What were the black ones again? What was the difference between clubs and spades? CLubs looked like CLovers…right? And spades had to be the other one? “Five of clubs?” But I wasn’t sure.

He had the crowd start a rhythmic clap and he started to pick up speed on his pogo stick. Then he started to go higher and higher. I stood there frozen in fear as he took one huge leap and landed on a card, making it stick to the bottom of his pogo stick. He got off to examine it.

The crowd went silent.

He held up a five of clubs and I about cried from relief. Everyone cheered and began a thunderous applause.

Three months later, I was walking down the same street when I saw another street magician beginning his act.

I turned around and got the hell out of there.

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2 thoughts on “Bad luck in Covent Garden, or why I’m now terrified of magicians

  1. Speaking as a semi-professional magician let me start by apologizing for his abysmal behavior. I can tell you that more and more magicians are working hard to not do those kinds of things. There was a long time trend in magic circles to use a variety of rather stupid and petty jokes and cracks at audience member expense which was somehow supposed to make the magician look “cool” or some stupid something like that.

    Many of us know that when we do that all we are really accomplishing is making one more person not like magic and not want to see magicians in the future. It’s stupid to ruin the opportunities for other entertainers in the future. You’re experience is a perfect example. One of the things I love to do the most is entertain at weddings. You’ll never even consider the possibility of hiring me for your wedding in the future (or the wedding you’ve already had if you are married) because your experience of magicians is messed up.

    It’s unfortunate.

    But not unexpected by those of us who know better.

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