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One Spectacular Performance

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 06 November 2009 06:12
I was on my way to triathlon training one morning around six AM when I stopped at a red light where a man with one leg emerged in front of my car and started his routine. I am usually not one for the traffic light contestants here in Panama: the jugglers, patient the flame throwers, the men who promise to make your windshield dirtier than it originally was for only twenty five cents. I like to picture them all in a waiting room together auditioning for the America's Got Talent. As a general rule, online these would be the men and women who comprise the majority of the show's absurdly entertaining blooper reel. The man at the red light began hopping on his one leg and rolling his head around as if loosening up for a big race. If this was it, a one-legged hopping routine, I would have been perfectly happy. But as he hopped, the man then pulled out a small rubber ball, no bigger than a Clementine, and began tossing it up in the air and catching it on the way down. Up and down. Up and down. In terms of wow-factor, the act was, on paper, about as impressive as rubbing your belly and patting your head. But for some reason, I was mesmerized.

Then, moving into part two of his performance, and personally my favorite, he began throwing the ball against a small cement embankment on the side of the road. The ball would bounce off the small curb, then back to his hands. Off and back. Off and back. There were several times he misjudged the angle and the ball either came rolling back on the ground or missed the wall all together and landed in a small patch of grass. It was errors like these that produced a sharp grimace on his face and a frantic hop-retrieval. As boring as this may sound, I found myself glued to his show. It was not unlike watching a race at the Special Olympics. The quality of the event is discounted hugely if not entirely due to the circumstances.

For the amount of money people make in Panama, it's habitually startling to me the amount of donations that are made to beggars and street performers. There's a man in El Cangrejo for example who sits against a wall with his deformed legs sprawled among the sidewalk. He's the type of person I'd be terribly afraid of were he physically able to run me down. But consistently, like literally every time I see him, people are tossing him change. "Here's to the cause," they seem to be saying and always, without a missed beat, he responds with "Thank the Lord."
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The light was preparing to turn green when I did something I've never done. I reached into my console and pulled out a dollar bill. The man hopped over and, upon accepting the money, asked if I enjoyed the show. It would probably go down as the least earned dollar I've awarded in my life. But I responded in perhaps the only way in Spanish I knew how. "Espectacular," I said. "Never have I seen anything like that."

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better give a buck for a show than just sitting there
written by RK , November 07, 2009
I think putting some effort into a little show is still far better than sitting/walking with a cup and doing nothing. I'm far more comfortable giving money to those who do more than others to deserve it.
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Last Updated on Friday, 06 November 2009 06:16
 
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