Sunday, November 1, 2009

The stuff nightmares are made of

Do you ever get nightmares about work? As an actor, I grew up with the "actor's nightmare" --- the dream that puts you on stage without knowing any lines. This kind of thing is common. It's the dream where nothing goes right, where everything that could go wrong does go wrong. When I started working for this company, I started to get nightmares about what would happen if everything went wrong. If I wasn't prepared, or if the children didn't respond. Sometimes I have bad days at work, but they're never as bad as the ones in my nightmares.

Until today.

Today's party was surreal. Another Halloween-themed party, the day after Halloween (oh, goody). Now, the Halloween party is a little juvenile. It requires suspension of disbelief. I have to tell stories about imaginary characters and act like witches and vampires are real. For little kids, they are real. But once you hit nine or ten, or if you're just a jaded rebellious pain in the ass, this party becomes downright stupid. My first warning bell was that the birthday child in question was nine years old. That's a little old for this kind of thing. But... okay! I was feeling good, because the party also was only supposed to have ten kids. Easy peasy, despite the cotton candy add-on. (Cotton candy is the worst add-on to a party. It's sticky, it's messy, and the equipment is heavy as hell. Also, kids are assholes about it and pretend to get sugar rushes. They think it gives them the right to act like monkeys. But anyway.)

One thing the mother did NOT tell me, however, is that the birthday child is mentally handicapped. I would have liked to know this prior to him coming into the room at the start of the party. I've done parties for autistic children before, or children with mentally and physically handicapped siblings/friends. I just like to KNOW. I like to know what's expected from the child, if their behavior is going to be out of the ordinary, or specific ways how to handle the child----warnings about what they can and cannot do, etc, notes on their attention span, etc. Is that too much to ask for? But no, not a word from mom! Birthday boy was loud, restless, and irritating. He couldn't control himself, and continued to get up and wander around behind my table to look at my equipment and TOUCH my equipment----something that is not allowed. He wouldn't budge when I asked him. He wouldn't budge when I told him. I don't blame him. He doesn't understand. But I would have appreciated parental assistance in handling this kid. I barely got any.

AND YET, our mentally-handicapped friend was not my problem. I can handle a child like that. I could NOT handle all his snotty friends. Only ten kids. Should have been easy. But remember what I said about this party being a little juvenile? At the start of the party, I let the kids know that I'm going to be telling some stories, so it's just fun to roll with it and pretend along with me, even if you may not think it's true.


These kids were bastards. They were skeptics. They were at that age where challenging authority is cool. There's a huge difference between questioning something out of curiosity and being a bitch just because you can be. Yes, I have a balloon the size of an egg. Yes, I'm telling you that it's a vampire. Look, I drew a face on him! Just roll with it. Don't be an asshole and tell me it's a balloon and the fangs are magic marker and that I'm stupid. I just want to get through the experiment and move on. Every single act went like this. I present a story, I get called on my bullshit, or Birthday Boy toddles up to the table and starts grabbing things he shouldn't grab and lo, reveals the secret of the magic trick. Or, while I'm in the middle of something, another kid wanders to the corner where I have things HIDDEN and starts pointing at it and going OMG WHAT IS THAT. These kids were contrary, they were rude, they made every act take longer because all they did was argue with me----or raise their hands to say really obnoxious stuff when I think they have an actual answer.

Children TOUCHED the dry ice. I was halfway through my spiel about how dry ice is dangerous. I was holding it with gloves, telling them not to touch, when the child beside me reaches out when I'm looking the other way. And touches it. He then has the audacity to say "It's not cold!" to everyone around him. I very seriously stop the party to let them know that this is a serious safety warning and that touching it is very dangerous. I let them know that they can experience it by blowing on it and watching the carbon dioxide gas come off of it. The third kid to do this sneaks a hand under my hands while blowing and TOUCHES IT AGAIN. "It's not cold at all!" he says. You want to know why you don't feel the cold? Because it's so cold that it's killing the nerves in your fucking fingers, you idiot. How much do you want to bet I'm going to get a call like this is my fault?

But oh. Oh. OH, the final straw.

I was making cotton candy, and some kids stood on their chairs in order to be tall enough to see what was going on inside the bowl. I didn't mind that. The parents said it was okay and they weren't trying to touch anything. But then the kid beside and slightly behind me snaps out a hand and knocks my cute bat deely-boppers OFF OF MY HEAD. Not like a child who is curious and grabs because they don't know any better, but like a disrespectful, obnoxious ten-year-old brat trying to be an asshole. This is akin to walking up to a clown and tearing off their red nose, or kicking a balloon-seller in the shins just because you think it's funny. I was ready to cry. I was ready to lose my mind.

You ever see party entertainers in movies or on TV where they're abused and it's funny? Fuck you! It's sad. Next kid who touches my deely-boppers is getting hit with a sock full of rocks.

Homey don't play that.

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