This time of year always brings back some fairly odd Easter memories.
When I was in middle school I already had two part-time jobs. The first and most regular was the paper route in my neighborhood. Nothing too glamorous, but it paid for a fair amount of comic books. The other job I had was on Saturdays and it was even less glamorous than the paper route. I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted of town houses. On every street there were two trash areas in which residents would deposit their rubbish. Two times a week it was my job to clean the area and get it to an organized state. I could probably write for quite some time on the social implications a job like this has on a middle-schooler but that hardly seems topical at this point in the conversation.
It was a month or two before Easter when I was in the seventh grade that I was asked to be the Easter Bunny. Now this wasn’t a one-time gig… This was a recurring role at one of the two local shopping malls. They wanted me to work three days a week! Sure it wasn’t at the cool mall. Somehow the idea of this job seemed more dignified and important than any other position I had held to-date. So of course I jumped on the chance. I was able to work it around my paper route, and my dad let me take a break from cleaning the trash bins for the month I would adorn the suit of the fuzzy bunny.
We have all had delusions of what our first day at a new job will be like. Mine however were grander than that of the average man. My naivety was in full effect in middle school. Somehow I thought that by transforming into one of the great holiday legends it would in turn transform my social status into that of one of the cool kids. Boy was I wrong.
My mom’s friend ran the Easter Bunny exchange in the malls and I met her 15 minutes before my shift would begin. It was the strangest thing, meeting in what felt like a janitorial closet at the far end of the mall. The room had a pungent stench with only a chair, a table, someone’s clothes and a hanging rack with two Easter Bunny suits dangling sadly from it. On the floor at their feet were two heads. My boss left the room telling me to suit up and she would be waiting outside to walk me to the photo area.
Looking back, the thought of me in a bunny suit is pretty hilarious. At full height I am barely hitting 5’ 7” and back then I was a good bit shorter. Putting the head on I could tell it had not been washed since it’s original fabrication. I did it anyway, because I had agreed to take this job. Once inside the head it was by far the strangest sensation. On top of being a little short for an Easter Bunny I also had super-big glasses that managed to fog up from my warm breath inside the mask.
My boss took me by the hand and led me to the sitting area where I learned that once sitting I didn’t look quite as small as I imagined myself to be. Over the short course of the holiday season I had a handful of incidents that will stay with me. The first was a toddler who had their hands all-up in their salivating mouth. Now this was at the beginning of my shift and I was already dreading the remaining six hours. That kid shoved his hand inside the mouth of the head… this lead directly to my glasses. Then those chubby little sausage fingers went back & forth all across my lenses. The remainder of my shift I was unable to see a thing.
The second incident I found the most traumatic. My hometown had a military base on it. Let me preface this by reminding you that I was in middle school and not so big of a kid. I had five adults in the army sit on my lap at one time. The bunny suit is one of the hottest things you could ever wear. It was like getting inside a roll of carpet that everyone wanted to touch. Trying to get five people to look at the camera when they are having a fun time giggling and jostling around took an eternity. At least it seemed like it from within the costume.
Every day after I was done my dad would take me to the local 7-11 to get a refreshing slurpee in hopes of rehydrating from all of the sweat that would exude from my body. This is where the point of this story starts to unfold. The owners of the 7-11 could tell that I had endured quite a bit and that I stuck with the work even though I wasn’t necessarily cut out for it. These same convenience store owners would later hire me to work at their store.
These early days of putting smiles on kids faces was the foundation of my strong work-ethic.. next time I continue on this retrospective I’ll reflect on my seven year career as a slush-jockey at the Sleven.