Bert, a bearded motivational speaker with a slightly overgrown crewcut, stands onstage in front of a doe-eyed crowd. He wears a black garbage bag over his head and instructs about 50 onlookers to stand, snap their fingers, and say, "I am sexy."
"Bang, bang!" he yells into a microphone.
Then he takes a new tack: "Crazy people are the only ones who succeed in life!" he shouts from beneath the Hefty. "Think outside the bag."
South Florida Facebook Bash
Bert is partaking in the South Florida Facebook Bash at Gulfstream Park's Ten Palms Buffet (901 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach). The reason for the gathering, according to the event's website (southfloridafacebookbash.com), "is for participants to come out and meet their Facebook friends and make new Facebook friends."
Hold on. You mean friends on a social networking site are expected to be buddies in real life? That's about as crazy as Bert!
And what better way to learn random things about people I just randomly met than to force them to participate in a favorite Facebook survey, "25 Random Things About Me"?
Among the first people I approach is Shannon, a pretty, thin, 30-year-old brunette in a striped Parisian-esque top and a sloppy bun done to the side. She looks refreshingly normal, so I ask her to tell me something random about herself.
"I can do this trick where I give myself a running start, do a somersault, land with my legs spread eagle, and then fart on command."
And just like that, my fleeting sense of normality is completely gone.
"I can make really great Rice Krispies Treats," she continues. "And thanks to Facebook, I've been able to participate in my very first threesome."
"A couple found me online and liked the way I looked, so we met up and just, you know, did it."
"Did you enjoy it?"
"I did! I don't know how much the guy's girlfriend did, though!" Shannon says with a cheeky smile.
"If you could have a threesome with Snap, Crackle, or Pop, whom would you choose?"
She mulls over this complex conundrum for a few moments.
"I don't want to have kids anytime soon, so I guess I'll go with Crackle and Snap because I don't want the condom to pop."
Next comes Kim, a sweet 46-year-old court reporter who looks like Barbie — if Barbie lived in Fort Lauderdale and really enjoyed vodka and tanning. "Well, one random thing about myself is that I believe in reincarnation," she says.
Kim seems to be basking in the attention of a Woody Allen type with a weird comb-over/bowl cut, so I ask just one more question: "If you could be reincarnated as anything, what would it be?"
"Well, if I were to come back, I'd like to be reborn as my cat, Goliath, because I couldn't live without him. Otherwise, I'd like to be pretty much the same, only with longer legs so that I could be a jazz dancer."
"Bang, bang!" sounds from the other side of the room. Bert just won't quit.
Beverly, a husky 42-year-old woman in a blazer and a short, neat reddish/purplish hairdo makes eye contact. "Hi!" she says, handing me a card that includes two pictures. One features the back of a woman's thighs riddled with cellulite. The other displays thinner thighs free of cottage-cheese skin. She's selling fat chasers.
"So, Beverly," I interrupt. "What do you do for fun?"
"I sell skin wraps."
"That's your job, though. What do you like to do with your time off?"
"I like to meet as many potential clients as possible," she says with a smile.
"OK, well, is there anything out of the ordinary about yourself?"
"I'm an excellent networker."
Well, of course you are. Cyborgs are usually very good at whatever they've been programmed to do. Tell me something else, something a little more unique.
"I'm a very talented salesperson. How about you? Anything out of the ordinary about you?"
"I skin kittens at the full moon."
So much for Facebook friends.
Then a man in his late 30s who goes by the name "the Dude Dean" pokes me. He's rocking a brown Twitter T-shirt, a headset, a wallet that reads "Bad Motherfucker" (à la Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction), and a long graying ponytail. He claims to have more than 5,000 followers on Twitter and says he is banned from Digg.com because of some "lame cyber feud" in which he'd like to punch the opposing party "really hard in the penis."
"Sometimes people call me the Ninja Dean," he says, which explains his violent tendencies.
"Is it because you're really a ninja?"
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"No," says the Dude Dean. "I'm white."
Listen, dude, Chuck Norris invented ninjas. And white people. That's a fact. Right after he played Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun and won. So tell me an interesting fact about yourself, Dean.
"People typically mistake me for a manager," he says. "And they ask me questions about stuff, like how to get to the bathroom, and I like to give them the wrong directions."
And with that, I ask my new friend the way to the can, actually hoping to get lost.