I saw her ten feet in front of me, looking for all the world like Carrie from Sex and the City with her curly hair and quirky fashion. She wove back and forward through the street, almost skipping as she shoved Chupa Chups lollipops in front of confused bicycling Cambodians. They swerved a bit before accepting. The kids of Southeast Asia can give me a high speed high five with both of us on bikes, but this? Well, this was unexpected.
I considered asking her what she was doing but I generally try not to intrude too much into other people’s days. Wait. She’s thrusting lollipops in people’s faces, I’m pretty sure that makes questions fair game. The pessimistic part of me had one too many Halloween razor stories crammed in my head. Were they poisoned?! What is she doing?
I make games for a living. I like to create things that bring people unexpected glee in unexpected places. Earlier this week, I had already been thinking about why we don’t get to stumble on the joyously surprising more. I want to put messages in the empty glass bottles I see all over the ground for someone else to discover. One of the favorite things I did in San Francisco was discovering the Jejune Institute/Games of Nonchalance. This was a game set in the real world as a cult turned mystery. The designer thought of it when he wandered the urban streets wondering how we go to and from work without ever stopping to wonder about all the hidden stories in the streets we see daily. It would be a little creepy to feel like you had discovered a cult, but in the frame of a game it was quite fun. So, why can’t we drop the suspicion more often and be open to these kinds of delightful surprises and random acts of fun?
“Excuse me, are you handing out lollipops to Cambodians?”
“Cambodians, kids, anyone who looks grumpy and looks like they could use a lollipop.”
I couldn’t help but grin. She happily told me that it all started years ago, when sweets and dentists weren’t very common at all in the region. Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t consider some fruit to be a real decadent dessert. She doesn’t live in the region but appears to visit often. It was Christmastime and she found candy canes made with real sugar and not corn syrup, free of preservatives she exclaimed! Must’ve been quite a while ago! So she bought them and spread the Christmas spirit to random Cambodian people. The smiles and joy she saw in the faces of those she gave them to made her heart so happy she continues to do it to this day in Cambodia and Vietnam. She says people come up to her often years later either calling her or telling her “Sugar!”
I felt bad for even having thought evil thoughts about her intentions. They haven’t appeared to have reached the American paranoia about strangers with candy. I felt like I was distracting her from her task, so I wished her luck and walked away smiling. I don’t even know her name but it doesn’t matter. She wandered up to a few shopkeepers to share candy and I walked away as happy as if someone had appeared out of nowhere to give me a lollipop.