One of the local high schools had a fundraiser tonight for Haitian relief, an indoor winter festival type of thing typified by games of “skill” such as throwing a giant wiffleball into a toilet seat, catching a bamboo ring on an empty potato chip can, and everyone’s favorite Price Is Right rip-off, Blinko. Somehow, the Puddinette convinced me to attend the festival with her and kids, which still surprises even me. My appreciate for this of kind event, church festivals, county fairs, etc, judged on a scale from “Hell, yes, get me a walking taco!” to “this is worse than working the 2 am shift at Taco Bell”, usually falls squarely right at “Please kick me in the family jewels, hit me with the cartoon anvil, and then use my tongue as a lint roller.”
In other words, I’m not a huge fan. I’m not sure why, honestly. I do have memories of winning a real, working camera at the county fair when I was 12 (actual camera value: $2.50, cost of film for cheap camera: $4.00, number of pictures successfully taken and developed: 0).
It was probably the following year, at 13, when I began to develop my current feelings. I was obligated, as were all CCD students of conscription age, to “volunteer” for service at the annual church festival. I spent a day forcefully exhaling into tiny balloons until my face was crimson while darts, thrown by children normally considered too young to handle pointed objects, whizzed past my head. When I was released from service, my period of indenture complete, I spent what seemed like hours squeezing through the profuse crowd, surprised by the raucousness that accompanied the combination of “games of chance” involving actual dollars (in some cases, many) and towers of empty plastic beer cups.
I don’t recall really enjoying myself at festivals much after that. It was apparent to me that the point was the commerce, and I never really understood the value in trading my hard-earned cash for plastic trinkets. Also, it probably didn’t help that I rarely had any hard-earned cash at festival time. As a young man, money didn’t burn a hole in my pocket so much as it would teleport directly from my possession into a store’s cash register within moments of obtaining it. I could make $10 working the yard and have it spent twice before I came in to clean up. Dad would reach into his wallet to fish out that ten-dollar bill and be surprised to find that it had already vanished, and I was the proud owner of two comic books, a Snicker’s bar, and a package of grape Big League chew.
By the time I did actually have money for events of that nature, I’d developed a loathsome relationship with crowds of random strangers. The crowds had no use for me, and I still have little use for them.
I used to live in an apartment across the street from one of the more well-attended church festivals in the area, and although my brother and I would throw a massive party during the event every year, I never once crossed the street for entertainment. Friends would come and go, visit for a while, stumble over to the festivities and then back when in need of “refreshment”, and wanted to quench their thirst for less than $6.50. Our refrigerator served admirably as a way station for many a thirsty traveler, but sadly, our “souvenir cup” looked an awfully lot like a red Solo.
My poor wife continues to hope that someday I’ll remove the uncomfortable stick apparently firmly entrenched in my nethers, at which time I will look upon festivals with joy and happiness. I’m sure that my children would like to see me at a ring toss booth without clenching my jaws as if expecting a shot of ebola via used elephant needle. I guess there’s always room for wishful thinking. Until then, I’m going to take some pride in the fact that I attended the Haitian fundraiser festival tonight and didn’t punch anyone.
I will admit that they did have good popcorn.