Tuesday, October 11, 2011

carnie-fied


Well now. It has been almost 10 days since you've last heard from me and boy do I have some stories for you. If you remember (and for your sake, I hope you do) my last escapades had me working as a diligent employee with the Perth Royal Show. That means since Oct. 1st. I have been enjoying all things carnie (or "showie" as they call the carnival workers here). Now what I thought would just be some fun circus work for a little added moolah to pad my pockets has actually turned out to shape my future plans while I'm here in Australia. Please, let me explain a bit:

I awoke at 7 a.m. on Saturday the 1st of October to ensure ample
time for my arrival at the showgrounds. I was instructed to come at exactly 8:45 a.m. and you can be sure I was not going to risk anything on my first day.The showgrounds, about a 8-minute train ride from our flat, are rather convenient, but cost $3.80 each way. So, in typical Nicholas-the-stingiest-person-alive fashion, I walked one train stop down from our apartment every day for 10 days (took about 20 minutes) and caught the train from a neighbouring station, costing me only $1.80 each way. Let's just say after working 13-hours days though, this habit became a little too taxing. So, I am at the carnival. A red collared shirt is thrown my way with the logo "Sideshow Amusements: No.1 in Fun" emblazoned across the front. A roller coaster and Ferris wheel provide the backdrop, which I thought funny especially since our company didn't have either of these rides. So, after changing and meeting many other young people assigned to work in different game booths (more Taiwanese people, those lovely Italians, two Germans, a handful of Brits and some true Aussies--yes, I was the lone American) I headed over to my game, Deal or Double Up, to get ready. But instead of thinking over a script of what to stay, I already had hoards of people, throwing $6 a game in my face to try and win themselves a teddy. I was utterly unprepared. So, I improvised. I pretended we were on a game-show, holding a fake microphone, pounding on the wood displays to simulate a drum roll and even dancing with older ladies to sway their grand kids to try their luck at my game of risk. I cajoled kids, parents, young and old to get their butts over and after a couple hours, definitely found my groove. I was yelling, pointing, staring and doing anything it took to be the best at this game. Alongside me was a girl from Estonia (Inga) and a guy from Hong Kong (David) who pretty much just watched on in amazement. Later in the week they were both moved to other games, I think because I was doing most of the work for them. Anyways, the first day went off without a hitch. We had a half hour for both lunch and dinner breaks and were able to meet people from other companies and generally make acquaintances with everyone we could see. After a week though, these people became like best friends, yelling for change, sharing food and asking if we needed help...so the experience has left me with a positive outlook on the power of cross-continental friendships.
Back to the games though. The first day was about 14 hours. Yes, 14 straight hours, with only an hour break total: cue Sunday morning and the loss of my voice. The next day was way harder than the first. I spent more time at the showgrounds than I had in my own apartment and sleep was riddled with weird dreams. Needless to say, 7 a.m. creeped up fast and I was again summoned to my booth for more yelling and entertaining. Each day was a new crowd, full of new kids, so even though we were beat, they were all looking for the best we could give and that's what our bosses wanted.
So in true performing fashion, I sucked it up, drank a ton of water and got myself many a cough drop to prepare for another 12 hours of convincing people to waste their hard-earned cash on a game I later found out was just rigged (there were supposed to be cases with small, medium and large prizes inside. After playing the game for awhile though, I noticed not a single one had a large prize and only two contained mediums.
In this way, more people played more times to try and get big stuffed animals, with the average person spending somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18 to $36 each. Holy shit). To help ease the burden though, I got a new partner in crime, Steph, a girl from London. Together, we helped each other out and worked to gather even more people, sometimes blocking the thoroughfare with a crowd all assembled to see our antics. It was so much fun and after one day, she lost her voice too. Flash forward several days (and pretty much more of the same general thing) and we are at Friday, Oct. 7th. Not much had changed, people were even friendlier with one another and everyone was helping to make the experience worthwhile. Sleep was difficult, but I did get to come in at 11 a.m. two days and was even sent home early one day which helped. We also were permitted to put out several more mediums and one large prize, since so many people were playing our game, it was difficult to hide that we had NO large prizes (I can't tell you how many mums screamed at me for cheating their kids). Our bosses also granted Steph and I the use of a microphone to get even more spectators. He told us later in the week our booth was the single best moneymaker that year. Kudos to us I guess!

our last day of work, which was Saturday, things were rather bittersweet. everyone was ready to be done, but people had grown accustomed to seeing the rides everyday. Let me compare the size of this show to something akin to Waldameer, maybe even bigger. With animals, rides, games and anything else you can think of spread across at least a 4-mile radius. It was massive. I didn't even see the whole show. It even took me 15-minutes just to walk from one entrance to my booth, and there were more than 10 entrances!! That gives you a better idea, I hope.

So it's the last night now and I had yet to ride anything. We were surrounded
by all these amazing things and had no time to use and abuse any of them. So, Steph and I asked to be done early and what do you know our boss agreed.
We ran past all the things we wanted to ride (under fireworks no less) and most of the operators let us on for free, which was a treat. We saved around $80, especially since most rides were around $10-$15 bucks a pop. We definitely know how to charm people I'm sure. Goodbyes were hard after that, but I still had Sunday and Monday to help tear down the game booths, which I had agreed to earlier in the week.Those days were easier, with lots of unscrewing and collecting piles and piles and piles of materials to load on countless trucks. I crushed multiple fingers and bled on many a knuckle, but the $1,700 at the end of 10 days was oh-so worth it. I did so well, John, my Ed Hardy wearing boss even asked me to (get ready for it) join him for seven more weeks of travelling carnival work around the south of Western Australia. Pay is $600 a week (only three days of actual work a week, the rest is free time) and free accommodation in a caravan. So, I promptly decided (and unfortunately had to turn down my two other job offers) and packed up all my belongings. Bought a sleeping bag and some groceries and now, as of today at 2 p.m., I will depart for a 7-week tour. I have no idea what I'll be doing, but John said I will be moved around to different games and rides. I will also help set up and take down each time. About 7 other people from our troupe are also going, so I definitely won't be alone. Should be quite the adventure!! I am both nervous and excited, because living in a camper for two months could get quite uncomfortable, but the pay will certainly be worth it. Here's hoping!!
video
So, you've heard the story, but trust me there are many more, like the guy who said he would stab me in the neck if I didn't give him a big prize or the 14-year-olds that offered a hand-job to see what was in one of the cases they didn't pick. Yes, I knew signing on to work for the carnival would be interesting, but I definitely got more than I bargained for. These people are freaking crazy and John said the customers could only get even weirder in some of the country towns....Oh Jesus. But more stories will certainly follow, as well as pictures! As for now, I will try and update as regularly as possible, even though I will have a lack of Internet. Posts and pictures will certainly keep coming though whenever I get a chance. Just keep checking back and please, please, please wish me luck!

Love you all!

1 comment:

  1. NICK! i enjoyed this so so so much! the image of you waving people on and being enthusiastic about everything makes me so happy! all of this sounds like quite the adventure and im sorry but i have to be cliche--you are going to LOVE telling these stories when you're older.

    also, somewhat unrelated--i saw that your kitchen is tiny (like mine here!) and thought i'd point you to this:

    http://www.closetcooking.com/

    anyway, enjoy the journey and do update again soon. BONNE CHANCE!

    -Elena

    ReplyDelete