So today, we asked a fireman if he'd like a fireman's lift. He said he was too busy getting to his next fire. But we did synchronize our watches with his.
We welcomed people to 'our (Wellington City) library' and thanked them for coming. We shook some hands and helped some people carry their books. Security asked us not to take photographs in the library. We arranged chairs in Clerks Cafe in a neat long row, measuring space between them with our feet. When we were asked to move them back we did so.
We offered to read people poetry carrying copies of NZ poets from the library. Indeed, reading work by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O'Brien we bumped into Gregory O'Brien himself going to a meeting at MFAT.
At MFAT we arrived to find that foreign affairs had been well briefed on our arrival. Two security guards were on-hand 'for our protection' as much as MFAT's, apparently. (By the end of the session we had almost recruited one to be a member of our team.) For we came in peace: aiming to find the best ways to help people in the foyer. It was suddenly as if the civil service was overstaffed. We pressed the lift buttons, thanked them and gave them handshakes, opened doors and held the lift doors for them. We mulled on whether it was of most help to get as many people into one lift as possible (efficient!) or to ensure they got a lift to themselves. Some people found congratulating, and thanking people, tricky - if their job was under threat would they feel like we were rubbing it in? If they were one of those doing the chopping would they feel threatened? Most reactions were warm and amused, some bemused. It felt heartening.
As we walked down the road we all tried to nod and smile at people and make eye contact.
At other times we made way for people, stepping aside as a group to ease their passage.
At Midland Park we conducted research into handshakes as a group, giving people feedback on their grip and temperature. At other times, we provided a barrier between pedestrians and cars as they negotiated a particularly tricky pedestrian crossing.
We did the same over a narrow piece of Lambton Quay where lots of people jaywalked and assisted by carrying some people across the road. We were followed and photographed by a Korean couple. We handed out schedules programming of public broadcasting: TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand.
Finding ways of being productive and of service in public spaces was very empowering. You're welcome to join us.
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