THAT Kid from the Country Club
When you are a wildlife educator, you can do hundreds of shows each year. You can meet thousands of adults and tens-of-thousands of children each year. Year, after year, after year. The numbers can be staggering. But, there is always one show, one kid, that you vividly remember…and not for good reasons. My nightmare: THAT show at the Country Club and THAT kid.
Now, I do wildlife shows in Dallas-Fort Worth and we have dozens of country clubs and I’ve taught at almost all of them. And, mostly, they have respectful audiences, appreciative parents and well-behaved children. Except for one country club. It shall remain nameless for fear of never being hired by any of their members again. I am certain, that I will never accept a reservation to speak there again.
Imagine this scenario. An empty ballroom, classically decorated, with a staging area. Nice. Peacefully and quietly you set-up for a show, safely tucking animal carriers in a row under a table, hiding them them with a decorative, protective drape. You set the microphone and do a sound check. Perfect. You take a deep breath and tell the hostess that you are ready when they are and instruct her to have their members enter quietly and sit on the floor. You wait for the expectant country club guests to politely fill the room.
Nightmare begins. Doors fly open and crash against the walls. Children in wet bathing suits flood the room. They’ll stop at the edge of the stage, right? Wrong. Thrashing, shoving children leap onto the stage platform. Aghast, you try to corral them back off the stage. A scream. You twist around to see a dozen kids flipping over the table drape and pulling out carriers. A wildlife educator’s worst nightmare comes to life. You rush to the animals’ aid and verbally discipline the out-of-control chlorine-dripping herd of wild beasts and push them (maybe not so gently) off of the stage. You scan the room, not one adult anywhere in sight. Loudspeaker, quick! Give stern instructions. Request quiet. Have them “catch bubbles” in their mouths (an elementary school teacher trick). Little, by little, you regain decorum. You regain audience control. Almost.
One young boy, maybe 7 years old grins at you from the front row center. It’s not a sweet grin, it’s a devilish smirk. Hmmm, what next. He reaches forward with a hand and out shoots a stream of bright red liquid…ketchup. That kid, that devil’s-spawn, has ketchup packets in both hands and squeezes them until they squirt their contents across the front of the stage and down your pant leg. Squeals of joy. Deafening, shrill, pre-adolescent, peels of ear-piercing laughter. THAT show at the county club. THAT kid.
It’s been years now, maybe two or three, since that scene. The image was neatly filed away in memory, nearly forgotten…until this week. Another birthday party, another beautiful home, another group of curious party guests, another beaming birthday boy. The program begins and all is well with the world. Until the patio door flies open. In bursts a ruddy-faced, tousle-haired boy who interrupts by blurting out, “Hey, I know you. I saw you at the ______ Country Club!” The moment of recognition. THAT show at the Country Club. THAT kid.