Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a thing to behold. Thanks to a last-minute call from a job I'd given up on earlier in the month, I saw it from Ground Zero: a bar on Bourbon St. I was hired as a shotgirl, which means I had a little refillable tray of high-octane shooters in test tubes, which I hawked to the public at large. The more shots I sold, the more money I made. And honey, I made a mint. And lost my voice completely by the end of Fat Tuesday itself.
The bar I was at was part of a chain with three locations along Bourbon. I worked at one location on Sunday and Tuesday, and another one on Monday. This variation in geography allows me to make some fairly well-informed statements about tits.
There was a lot of flashing. A lot. It made my bisexual brain happy, I can tell you that much. What was sad were the people (almost all male) who completely failed at getting flashed. Case in point: On the second-floor balcony across the street from my lookout spot on Mardi Gras itself, there was a private party of 30-something guys in matching costumey pirate hats. They tried to get girls to flash them by chanting "Show us your tits!" repetitively and rating them from 1 to 10 with little construction paper score cards labelled "Boob Olympics." This was not terribly successful. There were moments when a throng of chicks would succumb to these guys' obvious charm and wit, but for the truly staggering numbers of drunks (and many of their number did stagger) on the street that day, their results were pitiful.
Now, I compare that to the other location I was at, which was directly underneath another balcony with another private party. (This was standard; lots of places rented second-floor rooms for the holiday, and lots of those people took the opportunity to strew the streets with beads.) Since I was right underneath, I couldn't see the people on the balcony itself, but damn could I ever see their results. Again, so many boobs. A lot of their success came with viewing flashing as an exchange, instead of a one-way exploitation:* these guys threw beads. And they had some really, really good beads, including really big ones, ones with little plushies attached, and ones with branded or funny-shaped beads, all of which are among the most sought after in Carnival. These second guys didn't stinge or discriminate, either; they threw beads to men, to kids, to chicks who didn't flash them, as long as somebody did something distinctive or cute or whatever it was that appealed to the thrower. And they kept it up for hours. I was there for about 7 hours, and so were they. They kept throwing as long as there was a crowd underneath them. Hell, several times their crowd was so engrossed in getting beads that it got in the way of me selling them more booze. Now, that is success.
The non-Bourbon applications of this apparent dichotomy are interesting and wide-reaching. Steve's gotten on The Social Networking Sites of Dooooooom recently, and maybe there's something similar going on there: to make a friend, be a friend. Give people something for their time and bother, like worthwhile content or eye-candy design. Don't just expect the internet to flash you because it has nothing better to do with itself -- although sometimes it will, mostly if you head off to the spamming-with-porn-sites districts. So remember, Citizens of the Tubes, play nice and share.
*To clarify: I spent these three days selling my sexuality on a street corner for $3 a pop. I'm not saying all girls flashing guys on Mardi Gras because it's a cultural expectation is exploitation; most of them seemed to get a real kick out of it, and plenty of girls refused or drew a hard line at how much skin they would show. I'm calling the first party of guys exploitative much the way I would say it of colonial Britain: they engaged in a one-way delivery of goods without expectation of payment. End of lecture.