In Ann Arbor, Michigan, there’s a restaurant* called the Gandy Dancer.

I’d link to it but they play outstandingly annoying music on their website.**

Trust me.


The name is a slang term for early railroad workers. And the restaurant itself is right next to the railway station. In the restored Michigan train depot building from 1886.

This means:

During at least a couple different points during your meal, a train is going to go by.

Loudly. Because it’s pretty much right next to you.

Here’s what happens at the Gandy Dancer when a train goes by.

They ring this huge bell.

And then everyone applauds.

Every single time a train goes by.

You know what I can’t stop thinking about?

How completely freaking brilliant it is to turn something potentially annoying, disruptive and jolting into a ritual.

And not just a ritual, but one that’s communal. And fun.

They took something that people could (justifiably) complain about — “Sure, the food is good but a giant train rumbles by every twenty minutes or so.”

And drew attention to it. To turn it into something participatory, silly and joyful.



Obviously I’m thinking about this in a business sense.

Specifically, how I would do something like this at the Playground.

But not just in a real live storefront space. In an online business too.

How many irritating aspects of Doing Business Online are there that are both predictable and unavoidable?

And which of those could be transformed into something that make my people laugh, conspiratorially, with me?

My mind. It is being blown.

But also outside of the world of having a business.

What things in my own life that cause disconnection and irritation could be turned into rituals?

What things that drive me crazy could be opportunities to ring a bell?

I love how this gives me the power to allow That Thing I Hate to morph into something that’s essentially a mindfulness practice.

And I love how much room for fun and play is in this.

Because there is no limit to how kooky your rituals could get.


Oh, I don’t know.

What if the next time my neighbor’s yappy-ass mini-doglet starts ruining my concentration, I didn’t shake my fist at the window?

What if I took that as a sign that it’s time to put on my feather boa and start doing jumping jacks?

Obviously, that doesn’t solve my “hey, I’m trying to record a teleclass” problem, but it solves something.

Or maybe my students will already know that whenever the barking starts, we all need to sing the Butt Monster song.***

But rituals. Silly, carefree rituals to turn distractions and horribleness into things that make us laugh.

And a possibly unrelated post-script.

We did this post-shivanautical exercise at Camp Biggification where we wandered around in our brain-altered state looking for clues.

And I kept getting this really clear message to Ring The Bell.

Which was getting on my nerves, because there wasn’t any other information after that. Just the same thing over and over again.

And also because then I couldn’t get that Anita Ward song out of my head. Disco!

Anyway, maybe this is one of the bells. At the very least, I need a new feather boa.

My goodness we have a lot of asterisks today.

* Yes, this is the second time I’ve written about places to eat in Ann Arbor.

** Yes, all music-that-starts-playing-when-you-go-to-a-non-musician-website is annoying but this is somehow especially annoying.

*** If you don’t know the butt-monster song yet, you should really come to one of my events at the Playground.

Play with me?

If you have ideas for ways this can be applied, or thoughts on where something like this might be useful in your own life, bring it on.

Any business or personal situation is fine.

Maybe we can brainstorm up some brilliant bits of something or other.

Worth a try.

The Fluent Self