I relaxed until Anna told me to go change into George. Excuse me? I said. As the kids played pin the tail on the donkey, we went to the bathroom, where Anna pulled out an adult-sized, pretty professional-looking Curious George costume. After I changed, she guided my furry hand towards the children."We have a special guest that's traveled from a far away land to come wish a special someone happy birthday," Anna told them as I waved. I started to dance. I saw children bouncing happily and could hear adult laughter and clinking champagne glasses. I loosened my knees and remembered a video I watched about the Christmas dougie but couldn't figure out the difference between that and the regular dougie, so I just dougied. The father gave us an $80 tip, 20 bucks more than the recommended amount, and some written feedback: Great show. Especially George. Will call again!Juan got this gig because he's the brother of a clown. He uses all the money to pay for his studies in cosmetic chemistry. Anna said she had some problems with her visa and was hesitant to take chances on a new job. She took weekday shifts, too, and saved everything. Sometimes, she said, she walks away with the same amount of cash people make in a week. She warned me that most girls don't last long.
I heard children scream as I entered the next party. Are you a clown? Are you my friend? Will you make me a balloon?
Anna had a plastered on smile and clapped along with the "clap, clap, clap, clap your hands" of the song. I started marching in place and focused on one point like I use to do when I got nervous during college presentations."To the left." My left or the crowds? "Take it back now, y'all." Back to where I started or just backwards? "One hop this time." That I can do. Right foo leezt stomb. What was that? "Let foo leez stomb?" I had no idea what the fuck it was telling me to do, though I had deduced that all of this was just a series of commands that had a few seconds between instruction and execution. "Cha Cha real smooth." I was not sure what that meant, so I dougied again. And just kept going. There were some curve balls about getting "low to the flo'" and "Charlie Brown-ing," but for the most part I mastered it by the end of the song and reveled in the crowd's applause.
The mother gave us no tip. The company pays clowns on a per party basis somewhere between 20 and 40 bucks. Without the tip, the job sucks.
We drove an hour into the Bronx for our final party. The contract said 15 to 20 kids. The gym was filled with about 100. Children clawed at my legs, begging for a balloon. A horrifying number of parents cut the line on behalf of their child. I wanted to tell them they were acting like bullies, but instead I wiped the sweat from my brow and handed them inflatable dogs. A second wave of children returned crying because they stepped on their balloon or rubbed it against sharp, pointy things that are ever so present in a Bronx community center basement. They demanded new balloons because it was not fair. I wanted to tell them life is not fair, but instead I promised them another once everyone got at least one. Unsatisfied, many returned with a parent wearing an unforgiving gaze of how I let a child down and that I better get them a new goddamn balloon that second. I knew I was not being fair, and that the most annoying kids or parents got balloons first just so I could get rid of them. I was letting the more patient ones wait, which was its own sort of a life lesson.I looked at Anna, who motioned for me to wrap it up because I should have already been in the ninja turtle costume. I went to the bathroom to change and just as I finished zipping up the turtle body and was about to put on Raphael's head, a child came in. She took one look at me and the head in my hands and ran out like she had just walked in on her parents having sex. Our tip was 50 bucks, $10 under the recommended amount.
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