Saturday, June 30, 2007

Free Hugs Debrief

Another Fantastic Day with Folks from SFShenanigans!
The event started around 1PM with Agent TheBeast, Agent O.Range, Agent Luna, and Agent Me.Ow doling out the hugs on on the Powell Street side of Union Square. After getting "warmed up" for the first half hour, the group migrated down to the Union Square corner at Powell and Geary, right in front of the Heart installed there. (Apropos, huh?)

Agent Luna was a machine! She was the most insistent hugger out there, giving hugs everywhere she could, traffic be damned! It was a frequent occurrence to see Agent Luna half-way into a car hugging passengers through open windows. She even climbed into one of the trolley-looking tour busses to hug as many tourists as possible, all the while being encouraged by the tour driver on his PA system.

Agent Me.Ow was not to be outdone though, as she scaled the side of a fire engine to give the same half-in-half-out hugging treatment which Agent Luna is fond of, except Agent Me.Ow was doing this a full 10 feet off the ground!

As a 'guerrilla hugging group', you never know what kind of reception you're going to get from 'The Man'. Several of our Agents tensed up as Agent Luna went to give a window-hug to one of San Francisco's finest, and was told to "Wait There." The Police Sergeant turned the corner, drove up the block, and parked his cruiser. We kept on hugging the people that came in front of us, though we all kept a wary eye on the dark figure of the peace officer that was approaching...

It turns out that Sergeant K just wanted to give each and every one of us a hug as well. He stuck around for a while chit-chatting about SFShenanigans, brides, and Santas, and how he enjoys doing his part to support those types of events. At one point, while Sarge K was holding one of the Free Hugs signs, a little girl shyly approached him, wrapped her arms around his lower thigh, and gave him what is arguably the cutest hug of the day! (Please bear with us while we deal with the technical difficulties of finding and publishing that photo. We *really* want to get that up here.!)

Throughout the day, we had a raft of huggers filter in and out amongst our ranks. In addition to the initial four we had these other huggers 'represent': Agent Matt, Agent Katty, Agent Shannou, Agent Jeremy, Agent SecretV, and Agent Ms. P. We even newly minted an agent: Agent Becky, who was visiting town for the weekend, but might just be moving to San Francisco from the Midwest due in part to her fantastic Free Hugs experiences!

It was a great, fun, happy, and surprisingly emotional day. (Little known fact: giving out hundreds of hugs is an emotional exercise as well!) At the end of the day, Agent TheBeast was heard to be whining about "spraining his huggers". What better way to know that the Free Hugs crew did their jobs?

For anyone else interested in giving out Free Hugs, here are a couple of the things we learned throughout the day.
  1. Eye contact works! People don't realize they want a hug until they see the good-will in your eyes.
  2. Have an arm subtly put out. People don't want to hamper your ability to hold your Free Hugs sign, but a free arm lets them know you are open for the hugging!
  3. A mixed gender group is important. Only having one single gender represented somehow changes the groups' approachability as a whole.

UPDATE (2008-02-28): The photos of the police officer have been FOUND! Check them out!


Anonymous said...

It also helps if there's a stormtrooper in your group :)

Sounds like fun!

Agent TheBeast said...

That is AWESOME!!

I was thinking about doing a Free Hugs event at Burning Man this year, but then I thought that was kinda redundant...?

- Agent TheBeast