“… for if he show us his wounds and tell us his deeds …”
– William Shakespeare,“Coriolanus,” Act II, Scene 3
If you attended elementary school in America, you’re familiar with the ritual. Carry an object to your classroom, then explain its meaning and purpose in your life.
A pair of wooden ice skates handed down from a grandfather in Holland. A Chinese teapot. A hand-drawn picture of a unicorn. A beaded box of childhood treasures.
Whatever the object, the exercise offers a chance for introspection, storytelling, confidence-building, an opportunity to practice public speaking and connect with others – typically, classmates.
In this case, however, the audience is more likely to be made up of coffee-drinkers.
Boots Bakery and Lounge in downtown Spokane has been hosting show and tell every other week since the end of summer. This is a grown-up, bar-meets-coffee-shop version, which – organizers say – has the potential to be decidedly more interesting.
“It’s a chance to be involved with people in the community outside of what they are selling or what their business is,” said Zach Schulte, the 24-year-old barista and bartender who runs the event. Schulte sets up the mic in a back corner of Boots and gives a quick welcome before stepping out of the way and letting customers take over.
But the concept of this childhood staple recast as an adult activity hasn’t completely caught on yet. In August and September, there were nights when two or three people participated, doing more telling than showing.
Customers who have been caught by surprise – without an object to share – will sometimes still tell a story, recite a poem, sing or play a song.
“I think it’s a neat idea for a coffee shop. I’ve never heard of doing something like that,” said Amy McCaffree, who took a break from her Oct. 9 book club to tell everyone in the café about the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
McCaffree, 39, hadn’t planned to participate in show and tell that night. But, she said, “This book is meant to be shared,” and after Schulte’s introduction, that’s what she decided to do.
The last show and tell on Oct. 16 saw the biggest audience and the most participants, about a dozen. The youngest was 6. The oldest was 62. Some presented more than once. Others waited until near the end of the night, hoping a cocktail or two might provide enough liquid confidence to step up to the mic.
Chris Harris, 49, was first, demonstrating his gaiwan, a lidded Chinese bowl and saucer used for brewing and drinking tea. He said he uses it almost daily.
“I’m really into tea, and I thought a lot of people probably don’t know what this is, so I wanted to show them,” said Harris, who works at Boots and calls himself the “tea captain.”
Show and tell here was his idea.
“It’s a chance for people to connect face-to-face,” he said. “We’re in such a fast-paced world.”
Boots has been advertising the event through its Facebook page, posters and word-of-mouth.
“Everybody is smitten with the idea,” said owner Alison Collins, 44. “But it’s still catching on. You never know what you’re going to get.”
A photo of a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro IROC Z-28. A 28-volt Grimes light assembly from the wheel well of a Boeing 747. A red bell pepper, and a demonstration on how to properly cut it.
“It doesn’t matter what you have to share. Anything is fine,” Collins said. “It doesn’t matter if you think it’s minimal. It won’t be minimal to someone else.”
Her husband, Arden Pete, 39, showed off his wedding band and talked about his wife. “We met in this very space 11 years ago, and now we work here,” he told the crowd.
Their daughters also took the mic. Olive, 6, shared two tunes – “Lightly Row” and “French Folk Song” – playing her violin as her sister, Ivy, 9, held the sheet music.
Boots employee Mackie Hockett, 22, showed her pair of sugar gliders.
“They’re like flying squirrels,” she said. “Not a lot of people know what they look like, and I like to show them off. They’re pretty cool.”
Jade Aguilar, 19, showed a box of wonders from her childhood: handfuls of fake fingernails, a pair of miniature flip-flops, a plastic bug and a heart-shaped rock.
“There was this boy – we used to play Indiana Jones together – and I think he gave me this rock,” she said. “There’s something about the physicality of the objects that I think is cool. I think it’s really awesome on the basis that it brings people together, and it stirs up conversation.”
Schulte, her boyfriend, moved here from Texas last year and was among the first to share at the end of summer when show and tell started. The gathering, he said, gives a look into the stuff of life, insight into humanity through collective things, a chance “for a cathartic experience.”
He shared his maroon velvet jacket, the one he was wearing when he met Aguilar in person after a year of phone calls and online correspondence. They had originally connected in cyberspace, on Facebook.
Confetti leftover from clown school – he was a theater major – lined the coat pockets. So right there, in the middle of the Spokane airport, he threw the colored bits of paper into the air when he came face-to-face with Aguilar for the first time.
“It was very magical,” he said.