Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Carnival Series ~ Chapter II: On the road

Imagine.........Driving all night starting around midnight and finally reaching your destination three to five hours later (depending on pit stops, traffic and construction).  Pulling your trailer in and looking for a hotel room to crash.  Waking up before noon and setting up the rest of the day.  When I say setting up, I am referring to giant metal poles, heavy plastic awnings and then the game itself!  First you have to get the super, mega, heavy metal frame together, then attach all the large, cumbersome, tent awnings, next you can start setting up your actual attraction.  Only then, after everything is setup, do you get to rest (sometimes it takes until nightfall - more on this later).  The next six days you work from 3PM to midnight or later.  Then its time to tear everything down, pack it up and get back on the road.  It's extremely exhausting work......

JB had custom tents made for our stands and bought a trailer to load all the gear to travel.  The plan was that once the gear was unloaded, JB was going to stay in the empty trailer and my boyfriend and I were going to pitch a tent outside in the back yard or the living lot (carny lingo for the private area not open to the public, used for storage and living quarters).  I love camping, so this was no big deal for me.  Except none of us thought about the fact that once you get to the fair grounds it is usually either LATE night or EARLY morning.  Many times we ended up driving around looking for motels, hotels, SOMEWHERE to sleep for a few hours.  A few times we ended up sleeping in the truck.  Then by the end of our show circuit we learned how to set up our tent in the dark.  The following year (year 2000), besides JB, my boyfriend and myself, we had five additional people that we brought with us (Kara went home after the first season and didn't return).  They worked with us on The Pier in Ocean City, Maryland and wanted to tag along.  So that year, JB purchased a larger trailer (also to house an additional game) and we all slept in the trailer together.  JB stayed elsewhere.  For awhile his family traveled with us and they all stayed in a RV.

When you are on the road so much, fast food joints are your friend.  Your enemy actually, because you are soooo tired of fast food.  I mean, there is a ton of food on the lot (carny lingo for the show grounds) to eat, but you can only eat so many corn dogs, hot dogs, gyros, cheese steaks, funnel cakes.....just the smell alone, everyday is enough to drive you to eat food outside the lot.  Often times when other carnys find out you are going into town, they ask you to pick them up something.  So when you are headed to town, you find yourself with a list of items to get and a wad of bills in your pocket for multiple people (remembering who gets what change is a PAIN).

Sometimes the road is many hours looooong to the next lot and sometimes its just a few hours.  Late night driving, mostly.  When you work six straight days and drive all night the other day, people get sleepy.  And cranky.  That is where my fist fight comes into play.  We were on our way to Florida for a show (carny lingo for the carnival itself), Kara and I decided to nap on the long jump down (carny lingo for the move from one show to another).  When we awoke, we were hungry, still sleepy and VERY cranky.  We stopped for McDonald's food and the Monopoly game was happening.  Somehow we started arguing over game pieces and before I know it, Kara is swinging at me!!!!  Blindly swinging though.  Silly girl.  Then she has my hair in her fist and I grab hers, now she is clawing at me.  I had an older brother, so I pull her head back and give her one swift upper cut.  She stops and I see her lip is bleeding (she also has several lip piercings), also JB and my boyfriend are frantically trying to separate us (we are sitting in the back seat of a truck! - close quarters)  We both apologize and hug.  Really we like each other, but the confinement of the truck for many hours, lack of sleep and crankiness just over took us.  She had a fat lip and some bruising on her chin for a few days.  My husband told me today, "You NEVER told me you were in a FIST FIGHT before!!!!"  I never tell this story because frankly, who brags about hitting people??  And we were fighting over a very silly reason.  I was victorious however, so I don't recommend tangling with me over McDonald's Monopoly game pieces.

Read more about my travels with the carnival:
Chapter III: The layout (carny lingo for the time-tested pattern of a typical full-featured carnival designed to draw crowds all the way through the entire carnival and maximize their spending. The carnival was always laid out in the shape of a horseshoe. The crowd would enter the gate, and by natural instinct would proceed up the right leg. Games were the first joints they would encounter along the outside of the right leg of the horseshoe. Rides would be located down the center column, with the carousel always being the first ride beyond the front gate. After the games the crowd would find the shows and the the penny arcade. Across the back of the horseshoe would be the major rides, including one or more Ferris wheels. Then along the left leg of the horseshoe-shaped map, other shows and then more sales joints and games all the way to the front gate.)

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