Spaf's Journal: Problems in and out of Costume

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As a result of several of my journal entries, including the one about ripping my pants, I had several people inquire if I was embarrassed. Well, not really. As many people have discovered over time, I don't embarrass easily. As my friend Becky has observed, I don't need to drink to lose my inhibitions, because I don't have inhibitions.

Part of this undoubtedly stems from my sense of humor. I used to be willing to do almost anything for laughs. It also is probably related to my overall philosophy. I am aware of the general niceties of etiquette, and try to follow them. However, like many other proscriptions on behavior, they are guidelines and not absolute writ. Being able to step outside the lines is clearly a survival trait. Some people don't learn this until they get married or have kids, and some never learn it. I seem to have been born with it. It helps my work in security, as well as dealing with being a klutz.

The result is that I've been willing to try several things that others have not, and this has led to some of my exploits. If anything, those have then strengthened my willingness to take risks. I've never been very self-conscious about much of anything except my dancing and initiating romantic relationships.

I don't dance. Every time I have ever tried to dance, people around me have attempted to wrestle me to the floor, put a pad between my teeth, and summon medical assistance for a grand mal seizure. Back when the "Funky chicken" was a dance, I clearly had the chicken part down, but not the funk. That is still the case, unfortunately, and unless there is new dance craze based on epileptics with Tourette's Syndrome, I'm out of luck, and self-conscious about it.

As far as romance goes, the misfires there could be the subject of a whole book. Supposedly, women find intelligence, drive and humor sexy. I'd say I have more than the average amount of all three. Well, from my experience, those qualities are helpful only if it is coupled with looking like Antonio Banderas. What always happened to me (and still does, actually) was that I was really successful in reminding women of their uncles or big brothers. Unfortunately(?), none of the women I've been interested in find incest appealing, so that was a big zero. I'll postpone further dissertation on that topic for some other day.

Instead, herewith I will recount a few tales of overexposure that were recently brought to mind by conversations with my ex-roomie Dave, some e-mail, and too much pepperoni pizza before bed a few nights ago.

Costumes

One aspect of being a little gullible and not at all concerned about appearances, is that I will dress in costume for a good cause. The first real case of this, outside Halloween, was in high school. I was president of the student council. We were having a spring fair where the money raised was going to a charity -- I think it was Easter Seals. Two of the other officers (on whom I had crushes that never went anywhere, because neither was into the idea of dating the Pillsbury Dough Boy) got the bright idea that we should have someone dress up as the Easter Bunny at the fair. We'd get a Polaroid camera, and charge $1 to have little kids get their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny. We'd raise a lot of money for charity, and the kids would be entertained. Clearly, this was a great idea, until the topic turned to who would be the Bunny. All eyes turned to me.

It took a little convincing (well, darn little, actually; both knew she could talk me into near anything, and often did, but never anything I really wanted). However, I accepted on the condition that the others in the group had to find and obtain a bunny suit. I figured I was safe, because the fair was a week away, and where could they possibly find a bunny suit?

Where indeed. I never did discover where, but they found one. Saturday morning of the fair, they showed up with a complete suit: A huge paper maché head with big ears. White terrycloth top. 3 pairs of white, somewhat threadbare terrycloth pants. (3 pairs!?) And a box of cotton-ball puff tails with Velcro to attach to the pants.

With a resigned sigh, I donned the costume and took my seat, awaiting the first child. Who was terrified of this huge white figure with big ears and large teeth. Whose mother insisted he be put kicking and screaming in my lap. Whereupon he kicked me in a spot sensitive both to bunnies and to men in bunny suits. The paper maché head continued to grin while I momentarily lost consciousness inside the suit. My "whoof" of pain was muffled and baffled by the echo inside the head, and undoubtedly came out as some kind of cute bunny noise. Mom picked the little terror up, warned him "The bunny will bite you if you do that again!" (adding to his panic and terror) and put him back in my lap. I could only grunt through the waves of pain, so I couldn't do anything to reassure him as he cowered in the shadow of my ears. So, with mom covering his escape route, and me holding tightly to his legs to keep from a repeat of the kick, the flashbulb went off and he proceeded to show me why the costume had come with extra pants.

He peed his pants. And my bunny pants. And on into my real pants under the rabbit pants. Not just a little, either. The kid must have been to a keg party prior to coming to see the Easter Bunny. Me? I was just being a big dumb bunny noticing that my leg was getting very warm. The kid is going "Uh-oh" and his mother is starting to apologize profusely. It takes a while for the reality to sink in, but suddenly I jump up and swear. Whereupon the mother gets very offended, grabs her kid's hand, and walks off in a huff.

So, one kid into the morning, and we had to shut the booth. Karen and Donna (the Bunny's attractive helpers and co-conspirators) were laughing so hard, they nearly wet themselves too (would have served them right) as the Easter Bunny retired backstage to change.

Backstage, with the head off, I surveyed the damage. A huge wet spot on my jeans. The rabbit pants were clearly wet and stained, too. So, I changed the rabbit pants and left my jeans off to dry. After all -- I had the rabbit pants on, and there was no sense spending the morning smelling like I was a rabbit that hadn't been house trained.

Back into the breech I went. At least two hours went by before the second child had an accident. This time, it was a little girl. Instead of screaming and kicking, though, she was petrified. She didn't move. She didn't say a thing. Her mother put her in my lap and kept saying "Go ahead, dear." After the picture, she said "Wait a moment -- my little girl wants to give the Easter Bunny something." I figured it was a kiss, as most of the little girls had been kissing my paper maché cheek. So I bent my head her way.

Apparently, the sight of a huge head with big teeth making a lunge for her was more than she could bear. In a clear sign that physiologists don't actually field-test their ideas, her "fight-flight" reflex clearly became the "fight-flight-pee gallons and gallons" reflex and we had to close the booth again. This time, because I was not wearing pants underneath, it streamed down my leg and into my shoe. I reemerged as the Easter bunny wearing only a T-shirt (it was hot under that costume!), undies, and the dratted Bunny costume. We put up a sign saying "no pictures in the Easter Bunny's lap" as we were now on the last pair of dry pants. We figured if the kids stood next to me, the worst they could do is make the tile a little wet.

During all of this we also discovered why there was a box of spare tails. Every time I got up to take a break, some smart aleck kid would run up, grab my tail, and run off. I couldn't look around to watch for them, either -- if I turned my head it only went around inside the rabbit costume and I saw the inside of the cheek; if I turned too much, I hit the cheek and my glasses would fall off inside the head. Plus, I couldn't run in the suit to chase the kids. So, I lost a lot of tails and the girls took great fun in slapping new ones on to the Velcro in the back, often harder than necessary.

When we got down to the last two tails, we decided to be a little more conservative and put safety pins in the one on the 3rd pair of pants. I went out and sat down.

Everything was going fine for a while. The kids stood next to me for their pictures, and there were no more accidents. The tail stayed put despite small tugs until my helpers or the kids' parents could disengage the fingers associated with the tugs. I thought we might finally make it through the day intact.

Then, in the line, appeared a comely young lady. I had thought she might be the mother or older sister of one of the kids in line. She was in her mid-20s, I would guess, and not a student at my school. In fact, inquiries afterwards revealed that no one knew who she was -- no one I asked had ever seen her before (or after).

When she got to the head of the line, it was clear she was alone. She also clearly had a plan. Either someone planned it as a put-up job, or she really liked guys in rabbit suits. She gave the helpers $5 instead of the $1 for a picture and said she wanted a picture in the Bunny's lap. Considering that she was not likely to pee on me, and she was cute enough that I probably would have paid her to have her in my lap, I agreed.

She nestled up against me, instructed me to put my arms around her, and struck a pose that made a great picture. I'm not sure what the kids thought, but I liked it. But it didn't end there. She proceeded to start whispering in the Easter Bunny's mouth (she knew that the visible ears were about a foot above my real ears). What she whispered was what she wanted the Easter Bunny to bring her and do for her for Easter. I must say, I was as transfixed then as the kids I had in my lap were earlier. I'm sure if my face was visible I would have looked like a deer caught in headlights on a country road. My lap was full of warm, lovely, young woman and she had ideas of what to do with marshmallow chicks and chocolate rabbit ears that I have heard neither before nor since. I had thought it was hot in the costume before, but now it was unbearable -- not only were my glasses steamed up, but my eyeballs were clouding over, my brain was fogging inside my skull, and more than my temperature was rising. I'm sure she could tell she was having an effect on the Bunny and she enjoyed it, so she kept at it. After what seemed an eternity, she stood up, demurely straightened whatever it was she was wearing, and told the kids in line that if they behaved, she was sure the Easter Bunny would make their wishes come true, because she was sure I'd make hers come true. Then she walked off.

Karen and Donna must have gotten some clue that I was in some distress (perhaps my plaintive whimpering noises), so they decided to close the booth for a short break. I decided I wanted to remove the rabbit head, chase after that woman, and let her know that as the Bunny's chief helper, I would start right then and there to address her list of requests. I got up and started walking to the changing room, keeping my eyes on where the young lady was.

A little boy who had been waiting in line decided to make his move at that time. He ran up and grabbed my tail. I tried to turn, but only saw the inside of the paper maché. I did hear his mother, however, run up and tell him to let go of it. I assumed she had pried his little fingers off, and besides, I saw my Easter treat walking further away. So, I took a large step forward.

As near as we were able to determine later, the following things happened in roughly the same few milliseconds:

The result of all this is that I ended up sprawled snout-first on the floor, bloodying my nose on the inside of the costume, with the back half of the pants hanging from this kid's grasp and my underwear on display for all to see. A deafening silence descended on the scene....or maybe I simply was unconscious. Thankfully, Karen or Donna (whichever had the camera) did not snap a picture. Instead, they helped me up and took me to the changing room.

There, we tried to salvage what we could of the costume. I got dressed in my street clothes (somewhat fragrant with the odor of ammonia and urea), stopped the bleeding from my nose, and exited to look for the vision who had so distracted me. Of course, she had disappeared, and no one I talked to knew who she was or where she had gone.

We lost the deposit on the bunny suit because the head had sustained some damage to the snout in the fall, the pants had been ripped, most of the tails were gone, and the whole thing needed dry cleaning. The result? We made $3 for charity, and I can never look at a chocolate rabbit again without the strangest inappropriate feeling of desire.

Spaf in the bunny suit

Postscript: Almost 29 years to the day after this happened, I received email from Paul, the faculty member who was the advisor to the student government. He had been searching the WWW for former students and tried my name. He wasn't sure it was me until he read the above story. Then he dove into his files and sent me a picture we took of him, his wife, and me in the bunny outfit...before the wear and tear on the suit! Wow!

Birthdays

When I was 19, my father hurt his back in an accident and was out of work so long he lost his job. My sister was finishing up in high school, and I was having a really mediocre time in my first year in college, so I decided to drop out for a while. The job market at the time was a little tight, and I didn't exactly have a premier skill set at the time, so I ended up taking a job that had less that desirable qualities. However, it paid regularly and helped keep the family fed. So, I ended up as the assistant manager in a carwash, attached to a car repair place. Many odd and funny things happened there that I may write about some other time.

In this position, I got to do all the lousy jobs that the manager didn't want to do, and that the hourly employees refused to do. One of those involved fixing any leaks in the hydraulic lines. This was a particularly noxious job, because not only did it involve fixing the leak and bleeding the lines of air bubbles, but also cleaning up all the oil that may have leaked or sprayed about. This was not only difficult because the oil tended to penetrate everything -- including clothing, hair, shoes, and so on -- but it had a particularly high sulfur content. Thus, it smelled awful. And, after cleaning some of it up, so did I.

So, I had been working there for nearly a year and here it was -- my 20th birthday. My parents had offered to take me out to dinner when I got home from work at 6pm. The manager was away at a dirt bike race in Arizona, but everything appeared to be going normally....until 4:30. At that point, a hydraulic hose driving one of the brushes burst, coating all the brushes at one end of the wash with thick, smelly oil. I called my parents to explain that I would have to miss dinner -- I had to stay and fix the mess.

This was not the first time I had to carry out this noxious job, so I knew what I needed to do. To prepare myself for the coming ordeal, I closed down the wash, went into the locker room, and changed out of my clothes and into a set of cloth overalls. I put my clothes in a bag in the car and set to work.

I won't bore you with the details, but I had to test the dang thing three times over the next few hours, and the first two times the leak wasn't fixed and it sprayed me with oil. I had to clean the brushes about a half dozen times with heavy-duty detergent, including "combing" the brushes to make sure the oil was out. (Residual oil in the brushes could strip paint from some cars, so they had to be clean.) By the time I finally finished around 8:30pm, I was covered in oil. It was in my hair, in in my beard, down my sleeves, and in my ears It had gone down the sleeves and neck of the overalls and had thus spread out in a film over almost my entire body. I decided I was so filthy, I wouldn't even bother to try to clean up and change there -- it would only ruin my clothes. I needed a shower with multiple doses of soap, and there was no way to do that at work, barring an episode of streaking through the wash -- which I considered, but the water was too cold. So I put a plastic tarp down on my car seat and drove home.

When I got home, the house was dark. I figured my folks had gone out to eat or shop. So, I decided I would simply get my clothes into the washer immediately rather than track the oil throughout the house. Thus, I stripped out of the overalls and rolled them into a tight ball, inside out.There was a lot of oil on my underwear and socks too, so (because the house was dark and empty), I took them off and rolled them into the overalls too. The front hall had a tile floor so I could come back later to wipe up any mark, but this way I wouldn't drip on the rugs. I wiped off whatever oil I could with the rolled-up clothes. I got most of it, and smeared the rest into interesting patterns.

Stark naked, except for strategically positioned hydraulic oil, I went down into the family room on my way to the basement where the washer was. I didn't turn on the lights, because I didn't want to touch the wall with my oily hands.

So, I got to the foot of the stairs, holding the clothes tightly wadded under one arm, when the lights suddenly went on, blinding me. I heard a bunch of people yell "Happy....birth...day....Surprise!" I was exhausted, dirty, blinded, surprised....and naked. So, I'm not certain who got the most surprise. As best as I can remember, my eventual response: "It certainly is! Could someone please open the basement door?"

Needless to say, the assembled group remembered that birthday. I must say, I certainly do too. As an after effect, I don't particularly like surprise parties, and every time I smell hydraulic oil, I want to make a wish and have some cake.

Valentine's Day

I think it was January of 1984 when this story got started. I was single and looking, in between working on my thesis (sort of) and teaching at Georgia Tech. A few months earlier, at the suggestion of my advisor, I joined the Atlanta chapter of Mensa. Some chapters of Mensa are very refined and intellectual. The Atlanta group (at least at that time) was quite a bit more social. It attracted a lot of singles (and married people who acted single). It also attracted a lot of witty, funny people. I found it a lot of fun. Plus, I got to expand my circle of acquaintances outside of the people at school.

Shortly after I joined and started going to some of the meetings, two roommates joined: Jodi and Kathy. They both had great senses of humor, were attractive and single. Kathy started dating one of my friends in the group, and I started hanging out with Jodi (we became good friends but quickly realized we weren't destined for anything more than that). Jodi and Kathy had friends in the arts scene in Atlanta, so whenever there was some group outing, there were some interesting -- and often, attractive -- people to meet.

Anyhow, one evening, Jodi and I were talking and having some wine. She got the idea that she and her roommate were going to have a Valentine's Day party. We kicked the idea around some, and as we had more wine, she decided that it would be a costume party, she'd invite her fine arts friends, and there would be some prizes for best costume. She promised she'd invite some of her single friends for me, and told me to be sure to wear a costume that would get me noticed. In fact, to help me be sure to be able to make an impression, she would let me make an award of my choice for "best woman's costume." What a pal!

Well, I also took this as a challenge. What would I do for a costume that would get me noticed in a crowd of theater people? Over the next few weeks, I thought and thought. Then, one day, I was listening to the radio (and probably drinking a bit too much with Dave, my roommate), they played Jethro Tull's Aqualung. I dunno why, but I decided that I would create a costume as a flasher. Dave thought this was a great idea, too (which should have been a warning). This would be a variation on a costume I had tried as an undergraduate (as the strange old man from Laugh-In who kept asking if the woman wanted to see his Walnetto). I started designing.

I visited a local novelty store and found a pair of oversize boxer shorts with little cupids and hearts on them. Perfect! I had a T-shirt made with a big heart and the words "Even perverts need love too". I took an old pair of pants and cut the legs off. I found a coonskin cap and cut it up. I found old gloves and cut the fingers off. I found a flashing button that said "Happy VD!" (it seemed appropriate at the time, and no, I wasn't using drugs). I was set. I talked to Jodi several times in the weeks following, and she told me about the food she was setting up, and the number of people she had invited. I did not mention my costume, as I wanted it to be a surprise. I was psyched.

The big evening came. St. Valentine's Day. The feast day of the patron saint of lovers and of thieves (there is something deeply symbolic about that, I am sure). I had spent a lot of lonely Valentine's days, so I was looking forward to this one.

I put on the T-shirt and boxer shorts. I put the flashing button on over my heart. I took the cut-off pant legs, and rubber-banded them on my legs just above the knee. I put on the gloves with the fingers cut off. Then, I strategically pinned the raccoon tail from the hat hanging out the fly of the boxer shorts. I donned the overcoat and went downstairs. With the coat closed, I looked like I was dressed up for a night on the town. But when I flashed open the coat, ... well... it looked like I was ready for a night on the town. Dave pronounced the effect as "perfect," which should provide you with some additional insight why we were roommates. Two of our neighbors also pronounced the costume as "gross" and "fitting, somehow." They were two ditzy students from the design college in town who had resisted all out advances to date, so I took the fact they had even talked to me as encouragment. Undaunted by their critique, I picked up my secret weapon -- a dozen red roses. I was going to give the roses to whichever fair damsel had the best costume at the party. Then I got in my car and left.

I arrived at Jodi & Kathy's place right when the party was supposed to start. There was only one or two cars there, so I wasn't the first to arrive. I decided to make a splash. So, I rang the doorbell. Jodi and Kathy both came to the door. Putting on my best leer, I flashed open the coat.

The effect was more incredible than I had anticipated. I cannot possibly describe the look on their faces, or on the faces of the people behind them. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to explain that once the wine had worn off a month earlier, Jodi had forgotten that she had decided it was a costume party. Everyone she had invited had been told to come semi-formal. Except me. Everyone was dressed up. I was the only one without pants and a furry item hanging out of my fly. In fact, I was the only one with anything hanging out of my clothes. Kathy had never been part of the conversation at all, so she was especially perplexed. Jodi was shocked. I was....well, I'm not sure there is a word for it.

Spaf at the Valentines Day party

Rather than head home to change, Jodi insisted I be the official "greeter" at the door. She figured that I'd at least get to meet all the women she had invited to meet me and her other friends (true), that I'd make an impression on them (very true), and that it might make the costume seem a little more intended (impossible). So, I spent the next hour at the door, answering the doorbell, sometimes "flashing." I decided to give a rose to each woman who smiled at this display. I didn't give a whole lot away, unfortunately. The whole situation was rather disappointing in many ways, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how really stupid the whole idea was.

I also spent much of the party drinking, and trying to get away from this one really odd theater guy who kept following me around and asking "What kind of pervert needs love, too?" An apartment full of single women, and I was not only not dressed for success with them, but I was being hit on by a gay guy who couldn't take a hint. It was even more depressing than most of my Valentine's Days.

In leaving, I gave the remaining roses to Kathy and thanked her for the party, and for not being part of the "costume" theme (I secretly thought that Jodi had done it to me as a joke). I later learned that my aplomb under the circumstances, and my gift of the roses really impressed her. Perhaps that contributed to her marrying me 18 months later. Or maybe it was the racoon tail. Jodi served as maid of honor at the wedding. She didn't believe me when I told her it was a "costume wedding."

To this day, Jodi still claims she doesn't remember telling me it was a costume party. And I can't help but get somewhat nostalgic whenever I hear Aqualung. At least, I think that feeling is nostalgia.....


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Copyright © 1999 by Eugene H. Spafford. All rights reserved. Do not copy without the author's written permission.