A World Less Certain | Revenge of the Wallflowers

The pandemic for some is a cage of freedom

PHOTO: Farah Sosa | SouthPasadenan.com News | Author Rick Thomas

You probably know if you fit the personality profile of a wallflower. If you’re not one of us, maybe you’re curious to learn more. We’re fascinating individuals. You’ll probably find our antics amusing, perhaps even a bit disturbing. You won’t be bored, but reading about us will bring tears. We have that effect on people.

So, enjoy a few laughs at someone else’s expense. Mine.


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Did you know that wallflowers possess superpowers? Although we appear to be fully visible, we have the ability to stand perfectly still and disappear while maintaining full compliance with all the physical laws that govern our universe. This makes us impossible to see and really pisses off our parents while our relatives speak of us in the past tense.

We take on the shape, texture, and color of the objects around us. That’s the way we like it too. It’s no slight that nobody at the party remembers us. The guests that do sense our presence view us as boring anyway. To them, it seems we are having no fun at all. Not true: we’re having a blast! Small talk is dumb speak. We mix with others on our terms; limiting conversation to no more than a word or two. Then off we go to recharge ourselves, lining up along the wall, displaying our superpowers for no one to see, melting into the wallpaper tapestry while standing next to a large indoor plant, or chillin’ on an overstuffed sofa drowning in throw pillows.

But, wallflowers are hard to see for a reason. We avoid being singled out and asked to perform on the spot. An incident occurred in my life some of you may relate to. It happened in Jr. High School during the 1970s. I still remember the humiliation as if it were yesterday. In Mrs. Hall’s English class, I slid down in my chair trying desperately not to be called on to read aloud. That’s when that heartless horned-glasses f’k asked me to stand up and read the part of Macbeth near the beginning of ACT II, the long passage just after “Exit Servant.” I didn’t have a problem reading normally, but became extremely nervous when called on to read aloud in class. Shakespeare’s Macbeth never sounded so bad. I stuttered and stumbled, glancing up hoping she would pull the plug on me and give the part to someone else. That’s when I caught her making strange faces. She was mocking me while I struggled to get through the lengthy passages. After that, I feared reading in front of others. I struggle with it to this day.

Sounding nervous while reading in front of others may seem like a small thing. But not to me.

We are the world’s greatest collectors. We collect scars, lots of them. Our emotional wounds tend to heal imperfectly, and rarely go away on their own.


Walls have structure. They are flat, fat, and firmly planted. More importantly, they rule out the possibility of someone sneaking up behind you if you stand against one. They won’t budge.

Because walls are hard to knock down, wallflowers rarely feel weak or powerless while standing in front of them. The wall is also the ideal vantage point from which to view one’s surroundings. From such sturdy lookouts, wallflowers collect data to help process emotions and make assumptions about human behavior.

My wall during the pandemic is the old Hang Ten apparel factory. I live in a loft on the second floor above the lobby entrance. I’m also safe from zombies up here in my COVID-free space. I write from my concrete balcony, which faces the street like Pride Rock with a brick wall exterior. I see you. But you can’t touch me. When I hear people calling up to me, I am all-powerful. It’s Amazon, UPS, or food delivery people asking to be let into the buildings. I say no, in a commanding voice, and disappear inside my loft before the begging begins.

It’s the revenge of the wallflowers. Don’t worry, I let them in eventually.

Fantastic Voyage

Wallflowers see in exquisite detail, but what escapes our human senses, we can easily imagine.

A moment ago, I unleashed a flood of thoughts that had the added benefit of drowning out my tinnitus. I imagined being a blood cell speeding through my own arteries, passing through opening and closing valves, shooting into my chest, then rounding past my shoulder blade and finally skittering past my elbow into the stretch of open highway that is my forearm. Up ahead, the palm of my hand, it felt like arriving at Union Station in downtown Los Angles. My fantastic voyage didn’t end there. I chose to take the forefinger route straight ahead. Since I type using two fingers and a right forefinger as a nose picker, my exit strategy was a rational one.

Imagine if you were a single blood cell. How would you escape your own body? Think of all the possibilities. Your exit strategy must be based on logic and creativity.

I located an escape canopy: my nail rising from my finger-stub, bloodied from a recent chewing. Here’s the cool part: I sat in a warm pool of my own blood, gazing face-to-face at my curious self. A giant me. The goliath me then picked his nose, landing the blood cell me into a nose-hair forest. And thus began a new adventure in thought.

I’m never bored.


That’s about it. But if you will do me this last big favor, go out into the streets at midnight this Saturday night. All the wallflowers reading this now tell your fellow wall huggers to do the same. When your cellphones and Apple watches turn to 12:00 scream I AM A WALLFLOWER AND I EXIST!

As if.



Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.