And for a moment… I was a carnie.


There’s two things you need to know about me in order for any of what follows to make sense.

1. I am in sales for Verizon Wireless.

2. I live in Rochester, NY where, every year, we throw a HUGE weeklong shit show called The Lilac Festival. People come from all over the world to see these damn lilacs, eat funnel cake, and participate in general tom foolery. 


Yesterday marked the end of this festival. Which normally would have made me sad because I would typically have been one of the festival goers, participating in the tom foolery. Perusing hand made paper lanterns and candles, popping cinnamon and sugar coated nuts in my mouth, a plastic cup of beer in my hand. 

This year, as a Verizon employee, I got to work the festival. And let me say, if you had it twisted, get it straight. Being a vendor at one of these things is like seeing the underbelly of a traveling carnival. Instead of being inspired by blossoming lilacs, you’re losing faith in humanity. And I like to think for that week, I lived the life of a carnie. The bearded lady has got nothing on me. I am a seasoned side show freak now, and I have come to learn a thing or two…

Firstly, using port a potties multiple times a day will put a dark mark on your soul. I don’t consider myself a “germaphobe” by any means, and the first day I actually thought to myself, “hey, this isn’t so bad!”

Let’s roll around to the second day. Remember that scene in Slum Dog Millionaire where the little boys in India have to use the bathroom, which is a hole in the ground over some water. I felt some serious third world problems there in that portable bathroom. In fact, a time or two, I found myself wishing to be transported to that hole in the ground over that water. At least then I would not be in an enclosed space where the hole in the ground just happens to be about two feet deep and never gets emptied out. 

I have often wished for a penis, but never have I wished for a penis just so I could whip it out and pee anywhere. 

Moving on, festival food. Funnel cake was my all time favorite Lilac Fest treat. I only had it once a year when those pretty flowers bloomed, and I looked forward to it like a kid on Christmas morning. Until I had five of them in two days. 

I started sneaking away from the booth to go get funnel cake and strawberry lemonade. I was like a drug addict exhibiting seeking behavior. I would lie to my co-workers when they asked where I was going, AGAIN. 

“Oh, I thought I just saw a little child kidnapped! I have to go investigate…”

Only to return thirty minutes later with guilt in my eyes and powdered sugar on my nose.

Everytime I had to pee I would walk by the candied nut booth. They are giving out FREE samples of these delicious sweet nuts. Before long, you want MORE. After the third time of sneaking a sample, you want your very own bag. The vendor looks at you with knowing eyes. Sure, you can have this medium sized, shaped like a funnel, made out of wax paper bag of Cinnamon Pecans… $11 please.

And you pay it, because this is not real life, you’re living at a carnival.

Some days, it got chilly, and the price of the hot coffee would reflect the current temperature. 

On a particularly cold day I hustled over to the coffee cart and ordered the same small, plain coffee I had ordered the morning before. It is handed to me and I am asked for three dollars in return. Imagine my surprise when I had previously paid one dollar for this same cup of coffee. I take a sip to check the quality, maybe they are using a different roast. Nope, the same watered down, luke warm Folgers instant coffee that I had grown accustomed to. 

I stared at the coffee cart girl in amazement. Where was the solidarity?! I wasn’t some fair weather customer, I was a fellow vendor out here freezing our collective butts off. This was not my first brush with extortion, but it definitely hit me harder than all past experiences. 

Lastly, my all time personal favorite… people.

People watching becomes people judging and eventually people hating. 

Before you know it, that cute family with their cute kids and matching lilac cardigans are the enemy. I yelled “free smart phones!” at them the past three times they’ve walked by with not so much as an eye roll or dismissive hand gesture. 

Next time they stroll by I make a snarky comment, something like, “Oh, you’ve got so much money you don’t want a free phone”, and still they don’t even flinch. 

I’m beginning to think this family is an Al Qaeda terror cell, trained to withstand any and all torture methods. I consider beginning to pelt them with kettle corn, but I know it will be futile. They’ve seen it all, what can my pathetic attempts to get under their skin accomplish?

Only once I had built in my paranoid, strawberry lemon aid soaked brain an entire FX drama centering around these die hard, ninja focused imposters posing as upstanding American citizens….

Did I realize this entire family was deaf. Had not heard anything I had said, and had I begun to throw kettle corn at them, that would probably have been an effective way to get their attention.

Essentially, leaving my cushy, indoor plumbing life did not bring out the best of me. But I’ll always remember my carnie days, if only to avoid them in the future. 




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