I was on popcorn duty at my kid’s school yesterday, and spent the better part of two hours standing over one of those big carnival-style popping machines. We made 300 bags of perfectly fluffed, buttered, and lightly salted popcorn to hand out to the students as a way to perk up their week. What better way than free popcorn for everyone?
It seemed like a great plan, except nobody could have predicted the record-high day, and had we been able to, we wouldn’t have chosen to spend it hunched over a machine churning out heat in building with no air-conditioning or even decent air flow. Nothing like a good sweat in the morning to get that metabolism going. It was steamy, and I don’t mean in a good way.
After it was all bagged up, we took it to the classrooms and the kids went CRAZY. Running in the halls, cries of desperation, bodies crunching together at the front of the class trying to get their hands on a bag of that stuff. There was complete panic when some of them found out the cheddar cheese seasoning had not been sprinkled on, and that they had to wait for the shaker to be passed around to get a seasoning fix. They waited impatiently, and carefully monitored their peer’s cheddar intake.
“Whoa! Whoa! You’ve had enough!”
“Save some for the rest of us!”
“You’re hogging it! Pass it over!”
It was deemed unacceptable behaviour for a kid to sprinkle five shakes of the stuff instead of two or three by the anxious faced classmates sitting with plain popcorn. Scrambling hands reached out to grab the small jar of powder that could apparently make-or-break this popcorn experience. It was pandemonium.
Which led me to wonder – is this what carnival workers go through all day, every day of the summer season? Chaos and panic over one last ride, the biggest candy apple, or an extra sprinkle of popcorn seasoning? I’ve often thought it would be an interesting job, travelling from town to town, meeting all different kinds of people in a setting that’s all fun, all the time. But is it? You have to consider that at least half their job is listening to overstimulated kids coddled by overtired parents. After only one morning on popcorn duty, I realized I wasn’t cut out for life as a carnie. It’s a good thing I’m a writer.
I may just speak a little more sweetly to the cotton candy vendor with the missing teeth and hair like Einstein. I can probably bet he’s had a long day.