Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Under the Big Top

Over a month ago, Mother told me to reserve such-and-such date because there was a family outing to the circus. The circus. What 34 year old, never-been-married, womb dried and shriveled up barren female, wants to go to the circus?

But the peer pressure waxes strong with Mother, so I orchestrated a trade at work, and got the day off.

Mother said I could bring a guest, and my attempts to invite one were met with incredulous looks and transparent excuses (none of my single friends wanted to go either). So, not only does childless, husbandless me get to go to the circus, I also get to go stag.

It was a morning show, starting at 10am. Mother said we had to be ready to go at 8:30 am. Now, working nights since I graduated high school, I tend to stay up late. Not by choice, but because my internal clock is wired for it. So, I finally go to bed around 5:00 am, maybe get in a light nap, and then roll out of bed at promptly 8:00 am.

Scowling, I meet the women and children in the driveway, and we go downtown. For some reason, I was under the impression that this was a Barnum and Bailey type circus. It wasn't until we got into Municipal Auditorium, and I spotted a bunch of men in the classic burgundy fez, that I realized that it was a Shriner's Circus.

I don't have anything bad to say about the Shriners. When I was a newborn, I had a defect that required me to wear a cast and braces the first year of my life. The Shriners paid for it. Because of the Shriners, I can walk like a normal person (unless I've had something to drink). However, as I was sitting in the stands, watching the pre-circus festivities, I couldn't help but wonder just who was going to be on the trapeze. Some old guy in tights and a fez?

Thankfully, it turns out that they have a, ahem, real circus come and do the circus type stuff. The Shriners are left to dress as clowns and sell you anything that isn't nailed down. This includes these light-up wands that play music. They had some that looked like laser guns. Some looked like butterflies, some looked like light sabers. Each you would have to put a second mortgage on your house to buy. But parents were buying it all.

Anyway, I'm sitting in the stands (which were pretty good seats, actually), and am observing. In front of me, they are giving elephant rides for $10. You get to ride the elephant around the little ring twice. That's $5 a lap. Over on the other end, they are giving pony rides for $5. You get more than two rotations (maybe three), but you are going around so fast, I expected small children to be airborne by sheer centrifugal force.

There's a bungee jump thing in the corner, and I don't know how much they were charging per bounce. But the one thing that caught my eye was the Titanic Slide.

What. The. Hell? Am I the only one who finds this disturbing??? Apparently not, because parents were shelling out dollars so their kids could slide down the deck, much in the same manner that the actual Titanic passengers did when the ship was plunging into the frigid waters of the Atlantic. I'm surprised they didn't have a little quartet of kazoo players near by playing, "Nearer My God to Thee".

So, the circus actually begins with the ringmaster singing some cheesey little opening song, with a handful of girls dressed in skimpy Vegas showgirl outfits. One had a bad case of muffin top.

The lights dim and the Shriner clowns play a game with the audience, or rather, those in the audience who bought those spinner lights. They told everyone turn them off, and then on the count of three, everyone turn them back on. Exciting! This served no purpose other than to shame the cheap parents who didn't buy them for their children. Disappointed cries could be heard throughout the arena.

The first act is the tigers and the smell of pee fills the air as hundreds of children wet themselves with excitement. Sis-in-Law says it was tiger pee that I smelled, but I know better.

I'm not one of those freaky PETA people, but I felt bad for the tigers. I don't know if it was because such a graceful, beautiful thing was not meant to be a circus act, or it was just being in this particular circus, but I found myself wishing one would swallow the head of the trainer. Is that bad?

And so the circus goes in standard fashion: trapeze, high wire, Shriner clowns, trampoline, guys on bikes in a big metal ball, Shriner clowns, jugglers, some people playing drums half as well as I do, dancing bears, Shriner clowns, and various other acts that I refer to as Stupid Human Tricks. Oh, and some lady was shot out of a cannon. Big Finish!

The worst part? Not one beer to be found during that entire event. I asked a vendor why, and she sniffed, "This is a family event." So!! I would think that for such an event is when you need beer the most! Oh well. If they charged $2.50 for a can of soda, I imagine you'd have to sign the title of your car over for a bottle of Bud Light.

Financially drained, everyone files out of the auditorium, with their sugar-laden hyped-up children, all waving their little spinning light wands that probably died by the end of the day. Or turned up missing at the hand of the parents who were tired of listening to the same tune over and over and over again.

I hope the next baby who has to wear braces on their legs, understands the sacrifice I made on their behalf. I sat through a Shriners Circus so that they may walk.


Joe said...

I poached the Titanic pic with credit.

kate said...

That sounds terrifying. I went to see a movie downtown the other night and literally shuddered while driving by all of the circus trucks.

Jared said...

That can't be a real photo. Please tell me you photoshopped it.

Faith said...

HATE. circuses. Hate the trapped and trained animals. Hate the clowns. Hate the smells. Hate the fucking children everywhere.

When people tried to take us to the circus when we were little, we literally started crying in the parking lot, THAT'S how big of a mistake it was.

Good for you for supporting the Shriners. But GAH. ::shudders::

And yeah, that Titanic thing is in ridiculously bad taste. Awful!

GB, RN said...

The Titanic slide is real. Google it and you will find a couple places that rent them.

(My Titanic slide pic is stock photo of the exact slide at the circus.)

Dan said...

You tried to buy a beer at a 10 am Shriner's Circus. You are one of my favorite people on earth.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Yeah, I've seen the Titanic slide at various things, I think its bothersome, too. Maybe they should have bouncers like the Hindenburg, too.

And the band played "Autumn", not "Nearer My God To Thee". Well researched by Walter Lord in "The Night Lives On".

Obviously, I'm a geek to know such pointless trivia.