Monday, October 27, 2008

Anatomy of an Op Drop III: School Daze

This is the last of three posts taking us through the process of last Thursday's Op Drop, from beginning to end. In the first post of the series, I talked about the Design phase--specifically, in the case of this drop, the design of several promotional stickers I've started putting up in my travels, in addition to dropping disques. In the second post, I wrote about the Build phase, and how I'm oddly entertained by the process of burning, labelling and packaging disques in preparation for an Op Drop.

Now onto the third and final phase...

Phase III: Drop

The drop phase of any operation is naturally the most exciting, especially when I’m operating in a new venue like I was last Thursday. Disque dropping isn’t just a matter of laying an Alizée DVD down on every available surface, all willy-nilly. There’s a very subtle science to it…at least the way I do it, anyway.

I’ve talked a little bit before about the ‘rules’ I’ve set for myself where a successful drop is concerned:

I should probably explain that—I mean, who cares if a half-dozen of my fellow comic geeks notice me dropping it, right? One of them might even be motivated to pick it up out of curiousity. The only explanation I can give is that it violates my personal “rules” of disque dropping as I’ve come to think of it. Discovering one in a random public place is meant to be kind of magical and mysterious…like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and finding presents in the empty stocking you put up the night before. Getting caught in the act of a drop…I always feel like it robs it of its mystique, somehow…like Batman fighting crime in broad daylight, or something. There’s also the fact that I’m painfully shy around strangers—particularly cosplaying cuties in extremely abbreviated outfits—which makes having to explain a bungled drop somewhat akin to slow torture, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s not just enough not to be noticed, though. While it’d be easy to pick an out-of-the-way spot away from crowds where I could drop a disque without being seen, the chances of that disque actually being picked up in the near future are slim to none. The trick is to balance the desire to perform an inconspicuous drop against the need to drop the disque where it will be noticed. It can be a tricky business, especially when running ops in very public places like the Eaton Centre or the ACC…or in the brand-new venue that I chose today.

After my random encounter with a Alizée-curious college student two weekends ago, it struck me that I’d overlooked possibly the best potential drop sites that the city had to offer—its colleges and universities, all of them full to bursting with young people with ostensibly open minds eager for new experiences, and all of them keen to get in on the ground floor of the ‘next big thing’ before their friends do. With this in mind, I did my best to disguise myself as a college student, packed up my disques and stickers, and trekked out to my first target of opportunity…my alma mater, York University.

It was weird being back on campus after so long away, to say the least. I’d chosen York first reasoning that, as the school with which I was most familiar, it’d be the one I’d be most comfortable in. Boy, was I wrong. A lot’s changed at York since I left there (mumblemumble) years ago…and I’d forgotten what a pain it was to find my way around even when I was a student there.

Fortunately, my main targets—the Student Centre, the libraries, and the main lecture halls—were all still where I’d left them, more or less, and were just as crowded as I remembered. Unfortunately, they were also a lot smaller than I’d remembered…which, if I were a better writer, I’d be able to parlay into some kind of deep and insightful metaphor for growth or life experience, or something.

It took me less than two hours to distribute just over half my payload. As drop opportunities (or “dropportunities”, as I’ve taken to calling them...clever, no?) went, though, I’d more or less saturated the main buildings, and not enough time had passed for many disques to be picked up yet. (I’ve learned from experience that it can sometimes take up to three or four hours, even in a very crowded venue, for somebody to take the bait.) I’d either have be outright blatant about it, self-imposed rules be damned—dropping disques in plain sight on occupied desks and tables in the library and cafeteria, which seemed a little gauche—or try my luck at some of the outlying buildings.

I opted for the latter, reminding myself in the process one of the things I’d hated most about going to York—much of the campus seems to act like a wind tunnel, making walking from one remote building to another in the fall and winter an absolute bitch—but didn’t perform more than a couple more drops, given how empty these buildings seemed by comparison. I retraced my steps back to the main buildings, shivering all the way, replaced the few disques that had been picked up in the interim, then headed out with about fifteen disques left in my bag.

Eager to lose the rest of them—as well as the stickers, which I’d completely forgotten about while I was at York—I zipped down to the Eaton Centre, which as become my go-to target of choice, lately. Being a Thursday afternoon, the mall was only moderately busy compared to the weekend, so it took a few circuits…but by five o’clock, my bag was empty of disques, and every bank of payphones in the mall had at least one of the new Alizée stickers adorning them. I headed back home, leaving a trail of stickers in my wake on the city’s transit system, until I finally slapped up the last one on the inside of the bus shelter on the corner of my street.

Forty stickers and forty disques dropped, all told. Added to the sixty disques I'd dropped the previous weekend, I've met my self-imposed quota of a hundred disques dropped for the month. Not bad for a lone Alizée evangelist! And from what I can tell from the few stickers I've been able to check on since, the majority of them seem to be holding up pretty well. It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact they have on the blog's stats in the days and weeks to come.

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