The Kids: Nicole, girl with the orange luck
Coming up the stairs with one friend on each side, Nicole repeats in disgust how she is a magnet for bad luck.
“Terrible luck. Bad luck. Ugh. I have horrible luck,” she complains to her friends as they reach the 11th-grade floor and head towards the classrooms down the hall. “Mazal Nakhs,” she calls it in Hebrew.
I’ve overheard Nicole lamenting her luck, as I happened to come down the stairs from the floor above just as they were coming up. As such, we reach the same floor minutes apart.
“Excuse me,” I say. “Do you want to trade luck?”
Nicole and her friends stop to look at me.
I’m an educational clown. I’m dressed in a frilly blue-and-white checkered blouse, maroon harem pants, two different colored striped socks and red-striped shoes with purple shoelaces. I’m easy to see in a school corridor.
Nicole eyes me and asks what I mean.
“You say you have awful luck,” I say. “I’d like to trade luck with you. I’ll take the terrible luck and give you a different luck.”
The teens look at me like I’ve fallen on my head. Moreover, my accent in Hebrew (I have a soft “r” and not a guttural “rrr” thanks to my Canadian roots) gives students who meet me the impression that I understand even less than a “normal” Hebrew-speaking clown may comprehend.
Nicole tells me that switching luck is impossible and that she has all the bad luck in the world.
“I’ll give you colorful luck for your awful luck,” I offer. I’m not giving up. I’ve decided that I want her bad luck and I’m going to try my best to persuade her to hand it over.
“Colorful luck? What is that?” the girls ask.
Without any prior thought, I decide that some colorful ribbons I happen to have with me (I often bring some random item to hold while clowning) would be the colorful luck. So, I hold up the ribbons.
Nicole looks at the ribbons unconvincingly. Her friends say it could be fun to trade with me. She gruffly agrees to play along.
“Choose a color,” I offer.
“Orange,” says Nicole.
I explain that I will give her the orange luck on the condition that she first gives me her terrible luck. I show her how to gather her bad luck in an imaginary ball and to give it to me. She does.
I then pull out the orange ribbon from the ball of ribbons and lovingly give her the new colorful luck. I tell her that this orange piece of ribbon has numerous positive qualities – good luck, happiness, anti-bad luck, etc.
Before my meeting with Nicole and her friends, I spent my morning at this Israeli high school handing out ‘good job’ and ‘good luck’ commendations. Every teen who stopped to talk to me or ask me why I was at the school, received a compliment or wish of good luck for the day. Teens who I happened to pass by also got praises for being at school. Often, I gave the good wishes with a handshake.
The earlier compliments were all verbal.
In this interaction, I have actual ribbons to hand out.
Nicole takes the orange ribbon. She looks at me and gives half a grin. She isn’t ready to give me a full smile. And that’s okay. I thank her for the trade.
Her friends decide that they want colorful luck, too.
One girl chooses pink luck. She helps untangle the pink ribbon while I explain that this is pink luck, that it replaces all bad luck, and that it must be cherished. She ties it on her wrist.
Turquoise luck is chosen next.
Suddenly, a group of about 20 teenagers is surrounding us. They ask what’s going on and when they hear that I’m handing out colorful luck, everyone wants some.
It is absurd that these colorful ribbons excite the kids. But this is what I love about educational clowning. Being able to give meaning to something random; being able to create good feelings with new students.
Some of the kids tie the colorful ribbons around their wrists like the red string bracelets said to ward off the evil eye that are given out at the Western Wall. While the hawkers at the Wall take money for their red string blessings, I have oodles of compliments to give the students and request nothing in return.
I see some students tying the ribbons to their bags.
While I am an attraction for them, they, too, offer a funny sight for me. Imagine this situation: 11th-grade boys and girls huddling around a clown waiting for a colorful ribbon.
It is idiotic. It is ridiculous. It is therapeutic clown care.
Each ribbon that I pass out comes with its own qualities of each color’s luck (which I make up as I go along). Sometimes the students gathered around add to the tributes the color embodies.
A debate begins on whether the red and green strings represent the soccer teams associated with these colors. Some students refuse to accept the red strings because they don’t like the red soccer team. I explain that these strings are simply colorful luck ribbons and have nothing to do with soccer. They agree to accept my offerings.
When I’m nearly done handing out the ribbons, I see Nicole off to my right side trying to trade her ribbon with someone else.
“Nicole,” I say, halting the handing out of the next to last string. “You chose orange luck and I traded with you. You gave me your bad luck in return. This was our deal. Please don’t give away your orange luck. Keep it.”
The other teenagers agree that each person needs to keep his or her own luck.
“But I have terrible luck,” she says. “Awful luck. Bad luck. I’m a magnet for hideous luck.”
“Actually, I’m the magnet now,” I explain. “I have your old bad luck. We traded. You have orange luck. It is good luck.”
Everyone looks at Nicole to see where the conversation goes next.
She holds up her arm, gives her orange ribbon to a boy standing next to her, and he ties it on her wrist.
Thank you for reading my blog series, "The Kids: Educational Clowning Series." I write these blogs to give a snapshot of the middle school and high school students I meet as an educational clown. The stories are real; the names and locations have been left out. It doesn't matter who each person is, specifically. These kids are the next generation and I feel we should know their collective stories.