If you just came here from TeamHighFive.net,
we've got some explaining to do...
Team High Five isn't real.
If you just want to see the pictures we took of you, go
here. But you'd probably have more fun if you read on to find
out what really happened :
July 1, 2006, 7:30 PM
Team High-Five: Agents W. Meredith, T. Marks, Donnelly, Wallerstein,
Undercover crowd members: Agents Watts, R. Marks, Connerly,
and M. Meredith
Photography: Agent Thomas
The Idea and Planning:
Gears started churning for this mission on our message board when
Agent Todd stated that he used to go to bars and claim he was on
a cross county high-five tour for highfive.com and get free drinks.
I thought of the many times my hand was left stinging after a high-five,
I think I even cut someone with my fingernail once, and thought
that maybe worse injuries were possible. After a thorough Google
search, I had only found one high-five injury, some minor league
baseball player broke his wrist high-fiving his coach after a homerun.
The fact of the matter was it could and did happen at least once.
What if five of our agents represented a high-five, wore matching
shirts, and went into bars to promote high-five safety? It was ridiculous
and cheap, the two basic qualifications for our
missions. This would be our first mission in the bar district, an
area that frankly had a good practical joke coming its way.
Agents Meredeth, Marks, Wallerstein, Donnelly, and Carlson, preparing
for the first hit
Why on earth would anyone donate large sums of money for such a
ridiculous cause? Two teenagers in a car is the only way I could
think anyone could die as a result of a high-five, and Connecticut
seemed like the affluent place where such a thing can happen. Thusly,
The Rory J. Ellis Foundation was formed.
The foundation performed a great deal of high-five research, and
came up with some startling high-five statistics. We also needed
to teach people how to high-five "correctly", so we created
the Safe High-Five to be the most lame, unsatisfying high-five ever.
The rules of a safe high-five are:
- Be gentle!
- Don't "wind up" before your shoulder
- Keep your arm and forearm at a ninety degree angle
- Keep your wrist slightly loose
- Cup your palm slightly to get all the noise without all of the
- Be safe!
- Know who's hand you are touching in a high-five
- Know where your hands have been
- Use protection during cold and flu season
- Don't drink and high-five!
Agent Meredith developed a great flyer
that outlined our fake statistics and pointed people to our website.
He also developed a vibrant and rather cheesy logo for our website
and t-shirts. Agent Marks wrote up a brilliant photo release form
with the organization name, location, etc. Agent Connerly found
a variety of hand injury photographs
that we could easily claim were caused by reckless high-fives.
My character, Maggie, was Rory's girlfriend since high school.
She thought that she and Rory would get married after college (and
not-so-coincidentally, I was the ring finger). Having a close personal
connection to Rory and his family would probably help us out a lot.
With our characters straightened out and our bellies full of pizza,
we attacked Westport with full force in our ridiculous shirts.
Our first stop, at Kelly's, was probably the worst of them all.
The bar was sparsely populated with an older crowd who had been
drinking for some time and probably just wanted to keep drinking.
Everywhere we went, the biggest jerks of the bunch were the bar
staff themselves, which is understandable since they deal with an
alarming amount of yahoos and weirdoes on a daily basis. Since we
weren't buying anything initially, they seemed to feel that they
had a right to jerk us around.
When I attempted to engage in conversation with one table, I was
promptly screamed at by the old bartender, full force in my ear.
He didn't like me passing out flyers, didn't care what was on them,
and told me to take it outside. Negotiating with this man was futile
and only resulted in more yelling. We all stashed the flyers in
Agent Thomas' photo bag and attempted to engage in conversation
with other patrons to minimal avail. An older fellow wearing overalls
approached us and asked what we were promoting.
He told us that we didn't belong in the bar, that we had no right
to be here, etc. The younger doormen, a few of which I knew, were
amused by us and didn't seem to care what we did, and sheepishly
complied with the rules. We weren't directly forced out, but a few
more minutes in there would have turned really ugly.
So far, we were not doing too well, my stomach started to sink.
But not for long.
Broadway Cafe is a nice independent coffeehouse, and its outdoor
seating is prime for people watching and mingling with the alternative
crowd. We approached the group, who seemed dumbfounded and amused.
We handed out a lot of flyers, showed all of the injuries, and
pretty much won the whole group over. People like to feel smart,
they like to call shenanigans and flaws, and though they tried,
they all eventually accepted that such a ridiculous group can happen.
An enthusiastic young man approached us and gave us a pretty good
grilling, but he seemed amused and insisted that we part ways with
a hug rather than a high-five, and so I did.
He was very sweaty. We then hit Starbucks and had the same general
At the Dark Horse Tavern, the flyers were again a cause of trouble.
When we entered, we asked the doorman if it was okay to hand them
out, but he gave us a rude sort of "I don't want to see that.
Its not my job" response. The bartender vetoed handing out
flyers (thankfully after we had already handed them out to the majority
of the patrons). Two guys pulled out a very fancy cell phone and
went to our website, which thankfully, Agent Connerly had updated
right before we started the mission. High fives ensued.
We entered the dungeon of Buzzard Beach. We basically received
nothing more than confused stares and cold shoulders, but this is
the same bar where I have seen more reality stars, tattoos, absurd
body modifications, and inappropriate spectacles than I care to
recall. One man was quite amused by "Fig" (Agent Carlson,
whose character's name was Figaro) and engaged with him in a rowdy
We exited and hung out in the stinky alley way, handing out flyers
to cops and passersby while we reformulated our game plan.
Harry's Bar and Tables is a classier sort of place, so we thought
better than to go in there, but they waved at me and motioned for
us to come in, so two agents entered, and once we saw the rest of
the crowd staring with their curiosity peaked, the rest of us entered.
I talked to the bartender, who looked at me as if he had seen me
before (indeed he had the night before) and explained to him that
we weren't here to sell or distribute anything, just chat. He chuckled
at the concept stated that he wasn't the boss and that it was fine
An inebriated couple, who were less than classy, harassed me and
Agent Meredith after we negotiated with the bartender. The rather
frightening man stood up and stared us down and slurred profanities
while his girlfriend egged him on. They launched a formal complaint
and told us to take our "show outside." The bartender
reluctantly and politely asked us to leave, even though a higher
population of the paying customers had beckoned us inside and seemed
to love us. We left, but not in a hurry.
We did a lot more street work after that, which went well. Most
of the people who took a flyer listened to us for a minute or so
and then moved on, seemingly unphased by our ridiculous spectacle.
Those who denied a flyer seemed perplexed or just annoyed, but generally
polite. Our street sessions were generally unmemorable and bland.
The real fun was in the bars, and we needed to get back to them.
We figured that if we were paying customers and let other patrons
approach us, we would be less likely to be thrown out. So, we headed
to Blayney's and ordered drinks. The place was empty, so no one
really gave us more than a raised eyebrow. We needed to ditch the
clipboard, releases and flyers, which we deemed a major red flag
and deterrent for people to talk to us.
Agent Marks and I returned to the car to put the clipboard back,.
Along the way, two men sitting outside of Tea Drops stopped us and
asked what we were doing, and we gladly told them. I think this
was the most flawless interaction of the night; the gentlemen were
intrigued and really believed us, and stated "Wow, I never
thought about that before, but it is really dangerous." I talked
about our activities with children at day camps and making the shirts,
which seemed to give us even more credibility. They gawked at the
injury images and took a few flyers, and were very polite and genuine.
Sans-clipboard, things took a turn for the better. People approached
us rather than the other way around, many of them the same people
we had encountered an hour or two before. We returned to the Dark
Horse Tavern, ordered drinks, and let the chaos unfurl.
There was a delightful group of people at our second visit to the
Dark Horse Tavern that included two British or Australian men, who
were more than delighted to talk to us. One of them claimed he shaved
dolphins, rescued penguins from the Kansas City airport and transported
koalas. They were trying to one up us with ridiculous claims, maybe
trying to get us to crack, but we never did. One of them high-fived
as many people as possible, claiming three of them would get the
flu according to our statistics (17% of flu transmissions are caused
by high-fives). I told him that was during the peak of cold and
flu season, but he didn't really seem to care. Then I told him that
he was going to start the second wave of the plague and to stop
giving rouge high-fives.
Foolishly, I went into the back room of the bar alone and was immediately
surrounded by a group of men I had talked to earlier in the night.
And they were pretty, well, pissed off that such a ridiculous organization
existed. I was sucked into a vortex of sorts with a few local gentlemen,
who initially asked me about the safe high-five and then deliberately
gave one another exaggerated, reckless high-fives repeatedly. They
didn't take me up for some hand sanitizer. They then completely
interrogated me if this was real. They believed it was legit, but
would not stop talking about how ridiculous it was and wondered
if I really believed in this "weird garbage" I convinced
one guy, Eric, that I was a college student who really needed the
credit and money, and while I didn't oppose the idea of safe high-fives,
it was not at the top of my list of awareness causes. He repeatedly
told me that he thought that Team High-Five was the most weird and
ridiculous thing he had ever heard of, but he respected that I was
doing the project mostly for money and college credit. Apparently,
me believing in the cause was unacceptable, ridiculous, and absurd,
but to take money was okay in his book. It would have been a lot
easier to just let the guy in on the joke, but sticking to the plan
was a lot more fun. And as the guy kept saying, we would never see
each other again. So I kept the gig up, listened to his stories
and drunken ramblings. I then ran away as fast as possible.
The rest of the night was pretty tame. A few people asked us for
flyers. I switched shirts and headed back to Harry's with Agent
Watts and later Connerly. I was surprised they let me back in. Patrons
remembered us, the bar staff didn't. Apparently word had spread
because numerous people asked me for a flyer or another one even
though I wasn't wearing the shirt. Westport quickly degenerated
into drunken chaos, so I was glad we stopped when we did. However,
we still had half of the 300 flyers left over. So, Agent Connerly
and I placed numerous flyers beneath the windshield wiper blades
of the remaining cars around 3AM, which would probably not be retrieved
until the next day.
I guess this was a success. People loved and hated us, just like
Papa Don't Preach, but those that hated us certainly let us know.
I wish we could have handed out more flyers, but I guess we had
to respect the wishes of the establishments. Honestly, I've never
had people yell at me or treat me so poorly before in my life, even
when I worked in Westport as a waitress. I am glad that people question
things and are willing to do so with such fervor. Now if they would
just do it with the government...
While being undercover you get to hear some funny responses from
the crowd that would otherwise be missed. For example:
- "Its probably one of those Christian groups. I've seen it a
million times. Now, if one of thier shirts said 'F**ker', it'd
be a different story"
-Guy at Dark Horse
- "These guys have too much time on their hands. Or too little.."
-Confused old lady at Kelly's
- "Oh look, they've got a website... I'll use this to waste time
-Guy on the street
- "That's so funny! I wish we had people doing stuff like that
back in New York City"
-Trish from NYC (home of ImprovEverywhere), after being let
in on the joke late in the night
KEEP ON HIGH FIV'N !
Gallery of the mission, Team High Five
& Feedback thread of the mission
Team High Five website
High Five Fact Flier from the mission
High Five Injuries examples (pdf)