I accidentally made a kid cry yesterday.
Please note that I bolded “accidentally.” I know that it comes as a surprise that I, nice, innocent, Joy, could make a small child cry. I am sorry to burst your bubble, but I crossed that line. Yesterday was Willow Huntley’s annual “Trunk or Treat” event, at which I arrived as everyone’s favorite Russian lunch lady, Olga.
The character of Olga emerged last year as I was serving food to fellow students of my cousin during play season. As I handed out off-brand Oreo cookies of both the chocolate and vanilla varieties, it came to me. I asked the kids all kinds of questions using a newly-found Russian accent that sounds very similar to Gru from “Despicable Me.” The students absolutely loved my character and would repeatedly come back for more cookies and desserts.
Last year, when I heard that Huntley was hosting a “Trunk or Treat” event, I knew what I needed to do. Olga came out with new fury, donning a grey wig with curlers, a creepy mole, an old-fashioned apron, and grilling tongs. Olga’s culinary speciality is “Mystery Meat” and potatoes, since every cafeteria on the planet has some sort of mystery meat and under-done potatoes at some point in its existence.
When I began to practice the stage makeup that was necessary for pulling this character off, Aunt Sharon thought it would be hilarious to photograph Olga, and print out a 8×10 of the photo, as well as several wallet-sized photos for handouts. The irony of the picture – Olga is posing with a greasy frying pan and a copy of a well-known cookbook is behind her…and she clearly can’t cook.
The day came – Trunk or Treat 2011. Olga received a mediocre reception by kids, and was loved by adults. She handed out over five pounds of raw potatoes, as well as a can of spam and lots of candy.
This year, Olga stepped it up a notch. Instead of simply having mystery meat and potatoes as the main faire, Olga did three varieties of mystery meat, the staple food – potatoes, and even had some small fish for those who love seafood.
When people approached my trunk, I fell right into character with a well-practiced speech (read this in your best Russian accent!):
“Hello…welcome to Olga’s cafeteria, where we serve mystery meat and potatoes. Today only, I have special on mystery meat. It comes in three varieties – cubed, sliced, or in special holiday shapes such as a pumpkin or a witch, which are served on a bed of pickle slices…I’ve heard it brings out the flavor….Can I interest you in any mystery meat or potatoes?”
At this point, I would extend a potato in my tongs, and the kids would give me a stare like I was the most bizarre thing they had ever seen in their few years of life. The parents, especially the ones who know me, would be holding back laughter. When the kids would shake their heads to my offer of mystery meat or potatoes, I would ask them what they wanted…and the stares continued. Finally, many of them were able to say that they wanted candy! I would comment about how I didn’t understand why they didn’t want any mystery meat or potatoes and let them take some candy.
It was after one of these times where kids were taking candy that I looked up and noticed a daddy crouching with his little girl, who I assumed was crying. Something I said must have gone just a little to far for her precious little heart. I wanted to step in and say something, then I realized that having a hair sticking out of a mole on my chin wasn’t necessarily the most inviting, warm face ever for a child to look up into. I had to breathe and hope that she was going to be okay…especially because I needed to snap back into character again.
At one point, a little boy walked up, listened to my speech, and very politely asked for some mystery meat. I asked him whether he wanted cubed, sliced, or in a special holiday shape, and he responded that he wanted a holiday shape – a witch. Rather uncomfortably, I reached my tongs out and grabbed one of the two witch-shaped Spam slices from my display plate. As I turned towards him, I did the “mom-check,” where I looked up at the mom, raised an eyebrow, found little resistance, and so I proceeded. Closer and closer my witch-bearing tongs got to the kid. He opened up his bag and held it towards me. I expected to hear a “haha, just kidding!” at any moment, but it never came. I placed the piece of spam all the way at the bottom of his pillowcase, gave him some candy to garnish it with, and they moved on. Well played, little boy. Well played.
This all goes to say that even if I did make a kid cry, a kid one-upped me by actually wanting what I was offering. Hmm.
Mystery meat and potatoes, anyone?