Tomorrow is a big day for a lot of kids in the Nashville area. The Metro Nashville schools open up tomorrow morning with many youngers facing their first day of school. In preparation for that, the city of Nashville hosted their annual Mayor's First Day Festival
this afternoon down at the Gaylord Entertainment Center (or GEK (pronounced "Geck!") for short).
Now, I'm not sure exactly what the point of the First Day Festival really is. I guess it's supposed to get the kids excited about going back to school. More likely, it was about giving out 7500 backpacks to students and the other free giveaways from the vendors who showed up there. Also, you could find out about some of the school lunch programs, tour a school bus, find out which bus stop you should go to, etc. All kinds of useful things.
Now, some of you are probably asking--why were you there? You don't have any children and you aren't a teacher. So, why bother to go?
Well, I'll tell you. I went because a temp agency in town called me up Friday and asked me if I'd go and play Scooby Doo for the local ComCast office. I'd worked for ComCast before and even provided security for Dora the Explorer out at Cool Springs Mall a couple of months ago. Seeing the joy and excitement that the kids all had at seeing Dora was pretty heartwarming. It was also amazing how many of the older kids and adults all wanted a hug from Dora. So, I thought--it might be a good way to pass the afternoon and they're paying me for it. Not a princely sum, but reasonably enough to make it worth my time. And did I mention I thought I'd be bringing a bit of joy to some kids?
And I'll be honest--I did bring joy to a lot of kids. There was one young boy who was a burned and scarred all over his body whose face just lit up when he saw me and gave Scooby a hug. There were some very nice kids who asked where Shaggy was and wanted to give me a Scooby snack. The majority of these kids were great--just wanting a hug or a high-five or a handshake and then to go about their way.
But there was a minority that, quite frankly, ruined the entire afternoon for me. First of all, I understand that when you wear a costume to make you look like a giant cartoon character there are certain limitations. One is that it will be hotter than you-know-where and the second is that it will narrow your field of vision dramatically. I figured the second one would be OK since I'd have a guide there with me--to help me get around and keep the rowdy ones from getting too out of control. Boy howdy, was I ever wrong there!
Second of all, you have to understand that going into this, not every kid in the world is a good one. I expected quite a few attempts to get me to talk or for some kid to do something like pull on my paw to get it to come off, etc. But I honestly never expected the abuse I took at the hands of some of these kids. Where to start? They hit the nose of Scooby Doo, they walked up behind him and smacked him in the head, they tried to literally pull my arm off, they grabbed Scooby's dog tag and yanked HARD. And the ultimate insult of all--several of them walked up and punched me right in the stomach. And sure, it's padded for Scooby's gut, but that didn't help much. I took several shots to the stomach and was hurt by it. Meanwhile, my "handler" is off day-dreaming or checking out cute girls a few booths over, I don't know what. But after the second punch in the gut, I was almost ready to rip off the head, paws and beat some heads. But I didn't. For one thing, I was kind of shocked by it. Secondly, looking back, I wish I'd ripped off the head, said "Forget this, you aint' payin' me enough!
" and walked out then. But I didn't. Again, hindsight is 20/20 and the punching really didn't occur until midway through the time for the Scooby Doo appearances.
I was not alone in the abuse I took. At the GEC, we costumed characters were allowed into the arena to de-costume and cool down a bit. So, we made friends quickly. I spoke to the guy who was inside the Metro Schools outfit for Regular Roger for a good amount of time. Honestly, my first thought was that Roger was getting plenty of bran, but it turns out Regular Roger is there to encourage the kids to have good attendance. He said he almost got kicked in the crotch on several occasions. I'm not sure if any of our other costumed friends took similiar abuse, but I hope not.
And the thing that gets me most--when the kids are up beating on Scooby Doo or punching him out, the parents do NOTHING! They just stand there and watch. Now, I'm not a parent and I have a lot of respect for those of you who are. And I know you can't control everything your kid does. But you'd think that maybe punching a cartoon character might register as something wrong and something about which you might, just might, want to punish the kid for. Or at least take him aside and explain how this is wrong. And how Scooby is about to go Matrix
on his ass if he does that again.
But, apparently not.
I got home and reported my fun to the parental units. Mom said she saw on the news they gave away 7500 backpacks in 45 minutes. I am not at all shocked. You'd've thought it was a Predator's Stanely Cup game the way they were lined up when I got there an hour before the doors opened. Reports on the news said that it was mass chaos with the backpack giveaway. Yeah, I know...I was there in it. It's just utterly insane, I tell ya.
So, now, I'm home and I have to admit my stomach hurts from being punched. I fully intend to call both the temp agency and ComCast tomorrow and complain. I complained to my handler but he didn't seem to care much at the time. Also, it was hard to really get my complaint to register with the ComCast supervisor since she was one of several who had her purse stolen during the event. So, I will give them a call tomorrow and see what I can do. I doubt they'll do anything, but they should at least be aware that next time, I ain't walkin' into the combat zone alone. I'm takin' my good buddy, Hong Kong Fuey!
posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/15/2004 07:41:00 PM