Sunday, September 18, 2011

Being a Carny

When I was nineteen, my sister Kathy got me a job as a carnival worker in Ye Olde Tyme Photo Booth. My job was really strange. I was supposed to dress the women.

The outfits were incredibly hard to get on, with all of the ties and straps in the back, out of sight of the camera. From the front, the old timey clothes looked authentic. From the back, they were sort of like a hospital gown. It was my job to tie the ladies into them.

It was weird because the people who came never really knew why I was there, and often looked at me like some sort of creepy gal who liked to watch women undress. I learned right away that I needed a sort of speech to tell every client, or I was going to get punched in the face. I figured it out, and things started getting rolling pretty well, except that I couldn't help but stare at most of the naked ladies, because of their tattoos.

This was the early nineties, when it was still a little bit unusual for women to have tattoos. The kind of women who came the Ye Olde Tyme Photo Booth were different, though, and they all had tattoos. Some of the tattoos were so beautiful, I just couldn't take my eyes off of them. Full back body art was very common. The ladies would look at me like I was a pervert, and then I would say,

"That is just the most gorgeous tattoo I have ever seen..." and they would immediately soften, tell me all about it, and I would get in trouble because I was just supposed to move them through, hustle hustle hustle!

This went on for I can't remember how long, but not longer than six weeks. We had a set with a whiskey bottle as a prop, and one day, someone knocked over the whiskey bottle. I reached out to catch it and it shattered on my hand. My finger was gushing blood everywhere. Everyone in Ye Old Tyme Photo Booth (which was actually a trailer) was horrified and speechless, until finally my coworker said,

"That was seven year old tea in that bottle! If anything gets infected, it'll be your finger! You have to go to the hospital right now!"

They magically procured my boss, whom I had never before met. He was shortish and brownish and nefarious. He drove me to the hospital, where they fixed me up in a hurry. (I actually don't remember that part at all. But I do remember the next bit...) Then he put me into a cab, shoved a gigantic wad of twenty dollar bills into my hands, and told me it was,

"Cab money. You don't need to come back! Season's over! Thanks!" and he ran away.

I took the cab home. In my room I had only two mattresses, laid out over the entire floor, so it was only soft. A friend of mine was waiting in my room. I was late coming home. I showed the friend the bandage over my right ring finger and the wad of cash. We lay on our backs and I threw the money up into the air, so that the twenty dollar bills fell down on us like green snowflakes. I gathered them up and did it again. Eventually, the money was counted, and it turned out to be $500.

I still have a little scar on my right ring finger. It never got infected.