(Okay, you'll have to take my word for it that the box is red.)
Once a year, I spend three hours standing in one of these and "yelling and selling" Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo programs. On account of how I am an obedient and enthusiastic Junior League member, and the Junior League gets a dollar out of every program sale. (They were $2 back when this picture was taken, and I am pleased to report that, notwithstanding a whole lotta inflation in the market generally, the price has only risen to $3.)
Actually, it isn't guaranteed that I get to sell out of a red box, but it is my preference to do so, and, thankfully, a lot of my fellow Leaguers seem to be a bit afraid of them, so I usually get what I want. Many ladies actually volunteer to walk the aisles inside the Rodeo arena and sell programs to patrons in their seats. I dread seat-selling, particularly in the boxes at arena level, because I married into a Stock Show family, and I have a full appreciation of the fact that the people in those boxes: (1) most likely have attended multiple shows, and therefore already own a program, or two, or three; (2) actually care a whole lot about who and/or what just came out of the chutes (and may have a vested interest in same); and (3) would rather not have me constantly obstructing their view. And I do mean "constantly," because Fort Worth Junior Leaguers are nothing if not insistent: didn't want to buy a program from me the last ten times? Perhaps my eleventh pass will be the charm.
When I was a provisional member, I had to work the boxes one shift, and, after being heckled a couple of times, I was sorely tempted to switch my sales pitch to "BUY OUT MY PROGRAMS, AND I PROMISE TO STOP WALKING IN FRONT OF YOU!" Problem with that strategy is that, if I had sold out, an enthusiastic Rodeo Committee member acting as shift supervisor would have patted me on the back, handed me more programs and told me to make yet another pass.
So - I really like red boxes. Others don't like them because they require you to be an extrovert, but extrovert is kind of my middle name. I have fun with it, and with the patrons - particularly the older gentlemen with the big cowboy hats and equally big belt buckles. For this reason, I tend to seek out the matinee shifts: lots of retired rancher-types, some accompanied by wives, and others attending in large groups.
I have fun with the groups. "HEY, YOU IN THE HAT, WITH THE BOOTS - DON'T YOU DARE TRY TO AVOID EYE CONTACT WITH ME. Your momma raised you better than that. COME OVER HERE AND TALK TO ME. I can't help but notice that you don't have a Rodeo program in your hand. Suuuuuuuuure, you bought one yesterday. That was YESTERDAY. Today is TODAY. And your community needs money EVERY DAY. Plus, you need today's schedule. Yesterday's program had YESTERDAY'S schedule. What, you just want to buy the schedule? Okay. THAT WILL COST YOU THREE DOLLARS. And don't be thinking that you're going to buy one to share. NO SELF-RESPECTING TEXAS GENTLEMAN SHARES HIS PROGRAM."
You get the idea. Intimidation? Flirting? Tomato, tohmahto.
My general sales pitch goes something like this:
"PROOOOOOOOOGRAMS. GIT YOUR ICE-COLD PROGRAMS HERE! CHEAPER THAN A BEER AND GUARANTEED TO LAST YOU UNTIL THE END OF THE SHOW."
"RODEO PROOOOOOOOOGRAMS. THREE DOLLAHS! TWO FOR SIX, OR THREE FOR NIIIIIIIIIIINE."
[There are three reactions to that last statement: some people get the joke immediately, and immediately laugh; others get two steps away, and then look back at me when the joke sinks in; and, tragically, a few folks think that PRICES THAT ARE MULTIPLES OF THREE ACTUALLY REPRESENT SOME SORT OF BULK DISCOUNT.]
If someone walks by with a bag of peanuts, I may tell them that programs go great with peanuts. (See also: corny dogs.) If they have nachos, I point out the utility of program-as-lap-tray-and-liquid-cheese-spill-catcher. (See also: corny dog mustard.) Groups of mature women are pegged as looking like civic-minded folk who surely want to support the good work of the Junior League in their community.
Hey - who said that dung-slinging had to be confined to the exhibition barns?
This week's red box experience was highly entertaining. I made friends with the purveyor o' souvenirs across from me, and his smoke-break buddy who works for the physical plant and whose job, apparently, consisted of standing next to the ATM (for what purpose, I cannot tell - tech support?). Two hours into my shift, Mr. Souvenir Seller asked me if I could watch his booth while he and Mr. ATM ducked out for a quick smoke break. Being tied to my box (not literally, but figuratively), and not being an employee of Cheap Junk R Us, I wasn't in a position to make sales for him, but I told him that if someone tried to make off with any of his loot I would use my "yelling and selling" voice to alert the sheriff just down the concourse. I kid you not - TWO MINUTES AFTER THEIR DEPARTURE, they were back.
"I told you we would be quick."
Seriously? Those ciggies are expensive - and you're tossing them away after two minutes? I mean, not that I am supporting your habit, but, if you're going to commit, COMMIT.
After my shift, I went back and purchased two hats from Mr. Souvenir Seller - a sort-of-University of Texas ball cap for the Big Kid, with burnt orange and white fake fur where the crown should be, and a blue squid hat for the Little Kid. I actually had my eye on the Mardi Gras squid for most of my shift, but at the point of purchase I decided that a solid blue hat was "more versatile." I actually expressed this opinion OUT LOUD.
Little Kid loved his squid, considering how he is obsessed with all things aquatic. Big Kid asked why HE didn't get a squid, too. Um, because I was pretty sure that, at thirteen, if I presented you with a giant squid hat, you would roll your eyes, or say "Seriously?" or do both, or worse. Damned if I did, damned if I didn't.
"But the furry hat is kind of weird, Mom."
Right, because THAT'S THE POINT. Spouse explained that it was a crazy hat, suitable for crazy hat days at school or at church Youth functions, and was not intended to be a substitute for a ball cap that you might wear, say, on an outing to a museum.
"I don't wear hats to museums."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I BRING YOU THE SECOND COMING OF SHELDON COOPER. BAZINGA.
In addition to acquiring two pieces of questionable headgear, I received:
1) An invitation to dinner, from a gentlemen who I would peg as being around eighty, and who patted me on the hand and said, "I like you. You're fun." [Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing.]
2) An inquiry as to whether I was married. "Oh, too bad. But, you know, I'm married, too. Doesn't mean we can't date." Suitor #2 was, probably, mid-seventies. Ever contemplated the fact that the same comment, when delivered with a wink by an older gentleman, comes across as flattering, but, when delivered by a younger guy, makes your skin crawl? Eligible to draw Social Security: feel free to greet me with "Hello, darling. Don't you look pretty today?" when I get on the elevator. Younger than that: DON'T. EVEN. GO. THERE. Heck, yes, it's a double standard. But I stand behind it, 100%.
3) An offer to bring me a beer. Suitor #3 wins the prize! I don't think he actually intended to follow through with it, because he followed up the offer with, "Oh, you probably can't have a drink back there." Actually, there's a little shelf, and as long as I keep it in this red Solo cup with my name on it, we have plausible deniability, don't we? He looked a bit gobsmacked, so I let him off of the hook: my red Solo cup was filled with water, and I was good in the hydration department, but the gesture certainly was appreciated.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable yelling-and-selling experience. Nothing like flirting with older guys to make a middle-aged gal feel purty again. AND IT WAS FOR CHARITY.