The Magic of Magic and Magical Moments

My heart hopscotched like a 5th grader answering the final question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Except no encyclopedia or trivial pursuit could prepare me for the task before me.

As my train rolled into Circular Quay, I closed my eyes one last time and envisioned the path that guided me here today. I inhaled one last deep breath, thanked my family and friends, then let fate play its course.

A few months back, my international mates Carm, Keelin, Paige and I purchased tickets to The Illusionists, a magic show, at the Sydney Opera House. I’m all for the “wow factor”, and this show was touted as one of the best magic performances in the world. We’re talking humans disappearing left and right, scantly clad woman being sawed in half, and mind readers pinpointing what audience members ate for breakfast three Tuesdays ago.

On the day of the event, Paige caught a stomach bug. Keelin, elected to stay behind and help nurture Paige back to health. Due to the short notice, Keelin and Paige were unable to refund the tickets. They asked Carm and I to find replacements, but since the show was during the work day, we were only able to find one interested and available teammate.

That left us with one spare ticket.

On that afternoon, Carm and our replacement, Eliza, drove into the city, and I trained in to meet them.

As I arrived, my pocket buzzed. A text from Carm informing me they would be late.

An electrifying shock rippled into my soul alerting me of the gravity of the situation.

In my pocket rested the extra ticket.

I was on my own, a lone wolf, with the hefty responsibility of allotting someone with two hours of complimentary magic.

A job that sounds trivial to most, but of which past experiences have left me riddled with guilt for neglecting an opportunity to provide someone with significant joy.

My train arrived into a pouring down rainy Sydney, setting the scene for the dramatic duty bestowed upon me.

Challenge accepted. I threw on my rain jacket, exited the train, and began rehearsing how I’d initiate a conversation with my chosen pedestrian.

“Excuse me sir, how do you feel about experiencing two hours of magic with me this afternoon?…free of charge?”

I definitely needed to practice to avoid giving off the wrong impression.

As I contemplated proper verbiage, I realized I was getting ahead of myself.

How does one even begin to identify an innocent bystander whom fancies magic, let alone someone who would be willing to spontaneously accompany a stranger?

Do they wear bright neon colors? Do they walk with an extra pep in their step? Do they speak in a highly animated tone?

Even if those were the parameters, I struggled to find any suitors.

I decided to first follow logic and narrow my candidates down to independent travelers.

I then quickly devised a general “friendliness scale” in my head:

Resting Grouchy Face — 1 — — 2 — — 3 — — 4 — — 5 — All 32 teeth-revealing smile

Boring Outfit — 1 — — 2 — — 3 — — 4 — — 5 — Wildly fun accessories

Eeyore-esque slouchiness — 1 — — 2 — — 3 — — 4 — — 5 — Tarzan-esque uprightness

Staring at ground — 1 — — 2 — — 3 — — 4 — — 5 — Soaking in scenery

Any score less than 16 resulted in a nullified test.

I approached the event grounds with 10 minutes to find a suitor.

The scale proved to be effective, eliminating over 90% of passerby.

I scanned the crowd like an undercover cop scoping out her perpetrator.

Up the stairs walked a tall grey-haired 65ish man, BMI 34, in need of some nose hair clippers. But it was those stray hairs that gave him an endearing grandfatherly vibe, and earned him high points on the scale.

He was my man. I forged a smile, pulled back my shoulders (like the self-help books suggest for instant confidence), and approached my nominee.

“Excuse me sir, are you going to the magic show?”

He responded, “no why?”

“I have an extra ticket and was wondering if you wanted to come with me?”

As I finished my question, a similar-aged women shuffled beside him and grabbed his arm.

“Do you have two? I’m with her. ”

A swing and a miss.

This rejection instantly provoked a flashback to a middle school function. A boy named Max asked me to slow dance to Chris Brown’s “Say Goodbye.” I declined his offer. So this is what Max felt? How terribly inconsiderate of me. I took a second to spiritually apologize to Max and commend his bravery, but time didn’t allow for any further analysis of the situation. I’d reflect more on rejection later.

7 minutes until show time.

I scurried outside and surveyed the contenders again. An army of kids traveling as part of a school program. They failed to even pass the initial “solo traveler” screening. A bloke wearing all black sitting on the stairs, shoulders slumped. Warranted a “1” on multiple accounts. A man approximately 45, bright yellow rain jacket, blue jeans and 1970’s style running shoes. Eureka! Anyone who wears jeans with old-school running shoes screams good-natured to me. He also carried a camera strapped around his neck. Excellent, someone who enjoys capturing the moment. I crept closer to observe my finalist for a minute-he resembled a “Gregory”-and I completed as extensive of a security check as possible in such limited time. He bent down on one knee to snap a more artistic shot of the Opera House. Sold.

I jogged up the stairs and waved “Gregory” down.

“Excuse me, are you attending the magic show?”

“No, I’m not” he responded in an uplifting voice.

“Would you like to come? My friend was going to come with me, but she can’t come anymore so I have an extra ticket?”

“Aww I’m with my wife and kids.”

“Oh, ok I really don’t want this ticket to go to waste, I’m not sure who to ask, I’m just looking for people who are solo.”

“Um well I’m with my wife and kids” He repeated. At this point I realized that it sounded like I was seeking a romantic date. “Maybe try that man over there” he added.

“Oh no, sorry I didn’t mean solo, like single…..sorry, no offense, not like that…. I am just looking for someone who is alone because I only have one extra ticket.”

“Gregory” let out a forced chuckle, strong enough to stab discomfort through the both of us.

I left apologizing one last time, slightly embarrassed, but more-so agitated with the time I wasted on this unsuitable candidate.

I looked at my watch. 2:58. Show starts at 3:00.

I shut my eyes and “abracadabra-ed” my imaginary magic wand for a miracle.

I hustled inside and came across only one person by themselves: a mid-20’s man of asian

descent, flipping through an Opera House brochure. He wore a bucket hat. Bonus points for the bucket hat. If he wasn’t my dude, then it wasn’t meant to be.

Here we go Kendall, third times the charm.

“Excuse me, are you going to the magic show?”

“No.” My abrupt inquiry startled him.

“Do you want to go?”

“How much for ticket?” He asked in broken english.

“Free. My friend isn’t coming so I have an extra.”

“Free!?” His eyes flickered like a kid about to watch a magic show.

“Yes.”

“Yaaa!”

His animation jolted me to life. I love it when people are as amped about something as myself.

I told him we had to hustle, we only had one minute before the doors closed.

I rushed to the theater entrance, and The Chosen One quickly mimicked my strides.

I handed the ticket man my printed confirmation ticket. He told me I had to retrieve my actual tickets from Will Call. He urged me to run and required The Chosen One to hand over his backpack at the coat check.

The Chosen One and I locked eyes and nodded at each other, internationally communicating that we’d meet at the entrance. We then sprinted in opposite directions.

By some supernatural blessing, we whisked through the gate, and sat down with salty liquid mustaches and 30 seconds to spare.

“Wow!!!!” The show hadn’t even started and The Chosen One was blown away by the venue’s vivid red curtains and theater lights.

“I’m Massa.” He shook my hand. Massa was from Japan and had been traveling alone for over a year in New Zealand, Bali, and Fiji. He arrived in Australia just yesterday. He had never been to a magic show before, but told me he really likes ball juggling and card tricks.

Before I could inquire more about his travels and illusion preferences, the lights dimmed. It was show time.

Our hearts danced with enchantment, wonder, and awe for two straight hours. An acrobat floated in thin air, then disappeared in a flash. A puppeteer skillfully pulled dozens of strings to manipulate his puppet person to perform a dazzling mini magic trick. A man, submersed underwater and shackled by his hands and feet, used a paperclip to escape in three minutes. It was wild and ended too soon.

The acts were jaw-dropping and mind-altering (still trying to figure out how you chop a woman in half, then another woman spontaneously emerges from the same coffin), but the magic I felt flowed beyond the wooden stage.

It sounds cliche to say that meeting Massa was destiny, but I believe when you open yourself up, miraculous things can happen. I had the opportunity to provide someone with joy so I interrogated random people, faced rejection (not bitter about it…), and ultimately stumbled upon a traveler exploring on his own for over a year. Both of us stretched outside our comfort zones.

Every day, in some shape or form, we have the opportunity to open up to others. Even if it’s just sincere “hi, how are you?”, it could result in a rejection (like I said I’m not bitter…), but if you’re persistent, it has the potential to attract unexpected whimsical things into your life. Like a last minute complimentary invitation to a magic show from a frantic stranger, who just-so-happened to select you based off a self-invented “friendliness scale” because of your bucket hat. No scientific explanation. Just simply, true magic.

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