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My first job at Focus on Fun was a birthday party on the
At Violet’s urging, I’d practiced wearing the big, Elmo head at home prior to the party. With no blinds in the living room, I’m sure I was quite a site for my neighbors to see – walking around my apartment wearing as a life-sized
character costume, waving and dancing for nobody in particular.
“It gets hot in that costume, so make sure you wear leggings and a tank top – nothing more,” Violet had warned when I’d trudged up the stairs to retrieve the costume from her apartment. “The head is heavier than you think and you can’t really see out of it. But don’t worry; there will be a handler to help you.”
Having a handler sounded very glamorous and made me feel very professional as I pictured a bouncer-like guy maneuvering me through droves of admiring children all trying to get a piece of Elmo.
“And don’t forget to practice your balloon animals,” she’d said, handing me a pack of at least a hundred skinny balloons to be blown up and wrestled into poodles, purses and swords.
As I gathered all of my party gear, I felt like I was going camping at
. It was a lot to carry and I wondered how I’d get it all to and from my apartment to the Disney Land Upper East Side.
Elmo’s head turned out to be great for storage and on the day of the party, I stuffed everything into his head and then into a very large garbage bag. As I lugged my gear onto subway from Battery Park City to the party, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.
When I arrived, the party was in full swing and at first glance, I figured there to be around 20 kids running around.
“You can change in here,” the mom said, showing me to a small half-bathroom off the entrance way. “Your handler is waiting in the kitchen, right this way.”
I followed her into the kitchen and met Erin who looked more like a helper than a handler. She was barely five feet tall and I’d guess, around ninety pounds, soaking wet. We said our hello’s as my visions of performance grandeur quickly faded into the distance.
“I’ll walk you around the room,” she said. “The key is not to step on any of the children.”
She said it so matter-of-factly, I burst out laughing; thinking it was a joke.
Erin wasn’t kidding.
“It’s no joke,” she said, smoothing her perky, blond ponytail. “A couple of months ago, Adrian, the Cat-in-the-Hat guy, jumped up and down while he was dancing and stepped right on a two-year old, who happen to be crawling on the floor next to him.”
“Ohhhh….” I said, starting to sweat a little. “So it’s…..dangerous?”
“Nah. Not really. Not with me here.” She took a swig from her water bottle. “Go get dressed and I’ll meet you at the door. Just follow my lead and you’ll be fine.”
The bathroom was tiny and maneuvering around with the big head, clown gear and my own clothes was tricky. It was also really hot in there.
Erin asked, knocking on the door.
As I zipped up the back of the furry, red jumpsuit and held Elmos’ head in my hand, I looked in the mirror and thought of the $120 I would be making from the party.
“Yep,” I said, putting his head over mine and fastening it to the jumpsuit. “Ready.”