I wrote a funny ending to the story I told on the RISK! podcast that I think you’ll enjoy. It needed to be cut because it was a little goofy and also made the story way too long, but a number of friends asked me to share it. This won’t spoil the story for you, I promise. If you haven’t heard the whole thing though, you should listen to it. It’s good.
All you need to know for this little epilogue is that my first serious relationship in middle school/high school did NOT end well. My ex-girlfriend’s father, in a very nice way (it really was a nice conversation even though my hands were shaking in fear as he spoke), told me to never contact his daughter again. I never did, but here is something that did happen years later…
When I was 20, I spent my winter break from college working at a Barnes & Noble in Cleveland, Ohio. I fulfilled many demeaning tasks that older, full-time booksellers would never do. Chief among them was dressing as Winnie-the-Pooh for children’s story time. This task was not written in my job description, and even if it were, most of what happens to a person inside a mascot costume will never appear in writing for fear someone will sue the company for abusing its employees. Here’s what happens:
-Firstly, you’re not permitted to speak because little kids will freak out and scream: “That’s not how he sounds in the movie!” and the magic spell of thinking they’re actually seeing Winnie-the-Pooh will be broken, and childhoods will be ruined. Because you can’t speak, you have to come up with a special hand signal so your manager will know if you need anything, like water or a break or to put in your two weeks notice. The signal I chose was putting both hands as high up in the air as possible, as if being held at gunpoint, and waving them as if I were drowning. Surely, that would look like a person in distress and I would be ushered into the break room to take off the costume immediately.
-Secondly, you will sweat out every drop of moisture in your body within the first ten minutes of wearing the suit. It’s like you’re own personal steam bath that smells like it’s never been cleaned.
-Thirdly, children will check to see what gender you are, and they’ll do so by balling up a fist and taking a swing at your genitals. If you collapse on the floor, they’ll cheer and yell “he’s a boy!”
Physical exhaustion, not being able to verbally protest, and getting hit in the balls while being referred to as “Pooh” is a nice crystallization of what it’s like to work at a chain bookstore.One day, I danced through a whole story time as Winnie-the-Pooh, when I was asked by my manager: “Pooh, are you up for taking a few pictures with our guests?”
I raised both hands in the air as if begging to God to be taken out of the suit.
“That means he’s ready!” yelled my manager. Ugh.
The next voice I heard was familiar. I heard a woman say “Pooh, would you like to hold the newest edition?”
I turned to see my high school ex-girlfriend’s mom and most of my ex-girlfriend’s family. Her mother was holding an infant. My ex’s sister had recently had a baby, and it appeared this was one of their first family outings with him.
I shrugged. I wasn’t able to speak and I was hidden inside the Pooh Bear mask. What’s the harm? I held the baby and posed for five or six photos with a family that despised me. What I really wanted to do was start whispering warnings to the baby like: “Listen, you gotta watch out for your aunt. She’s nuts, dude!”
During the photo shoot, I had this outlandish fear that one of the cameras would flash and somehow light up the inside of my mask to reveal my face so that when they looked at the photo the girl’s dad would say: “And here’s the baby’s first trip to the bookstore, and- HEY! Is that Dan Wilbur?! I thought I told him to never come near our family!!”
That probably didn’t happen. More likely, the photo is on their mantel right now.