What’s the end game of free listening?
Struck by the question, I said in perfect timing with Kyle, who sat with me this session, “that’s a good question!” Even crazier, we both muttered “wow” under our breathe at the exact same time.
Kyle and I laughed like you do when you realize that JINX, YOU OWE ME A SODA.
She did not seem amused. With a straight face she remained staring back at us, seeming to divide her attention between us, waiting for an answer. “Just to have a nice conversation,” Kyle said, finishing his sentence with “we don’t really get anything…” and at that exact moment, she started to ask “what to you guys get out…”
Another JINX. So at this point, everyone owes everyone a soda and for the sake of not letting a good metaphor go to waste, imagine that we all have now have an ice cold soda in our hand. But she didn't seem to be enjoying hers. “Nothing" said Kyle matter of factly.” I added that, “in some ways nothing, but every time I have an interaction with people that come, I find myself feeling like it’s for me.” “I’ve just always been a sucker for genuine interaction, agenda free.”
She still didn't even take a sip of her soda. In fact, it seemed like she hadn't even opened the can. She needed that right piece of information to help her "pop the tab." What we said seemed not to appease the skeptical lens from which she was viewing, or in my interpretation was viewing, the motive for Kyle and I being out there.
I told her about the woman who had come by just before she did and asked us if we would hand out voter registration information.
Even though I recognized that it was a good agenda, I had to tell the woman that I don’t hand out any information unrelated to the project, explaining that we are “agenda free.” Even after the woman protested, “but it’s about voting...” I again declined. I had to be okay with her reaction as she quickly turned to walk away, almost like how a teenager would say “whatever” after hearing something they did not like.
By describing an example of what the end game ISN’T (to be a place where people come to spread their agenda, even if good), I hoped that the young woman who asked “what’s the end game?” might better understand what the end game IS.
Handing out any unrelated information at all, especially a call to action, would be something this project doesn’t stand for.
The project is a physical embodiment of what it represents, which is a safe space to express whatever’s on your mind.
If I have “rock the vote” fliers displayed on the table next to coffee are people really going to feel free to open up.
The "Free" part of " Free Listening" is as much a reminder that it costs zero dollars to participate as it is a reminder that people can feel "free" to say whatever they can think of.
Will seeing "rock the vote" make them remember that they have opinions, and that they might differ from other people's opinions, including mine? Will the message I’m trying to send, that this is a place free of judgement, criticism, or even a reaction really get through?
Or will they just be thinking, “Trump is an asshole." It's not a chance I'm willing to take.
Not a great place to start a conversation designed to bring people together.
We all have a 5K for a good cause that we can tell our friends about. And we should. In the appropriate setting for that. Like during a conversation when we are out for coffee or on our Instagram feed which is designed to let people know what we’re up to.
Then the sweet sound of "tssSSS kr-POP!"
Ahhhh. and instantly we're all transported back to the good old back to the days of childhood summer, when the distant sound of cans opening might as well been the dinner bell.
How do you spell the sound of a can of soda opening anyway?
That is the end game of free listening, to enjoy a soda together.