February 23, 2013

Pecking Away the Glam Part I

It is my second year on the road with Hens on Ice. Aside from loving to perform as a show hen, the travel can be a major perk of the job. But like any job, there are good days and bad, pros and cons, coffee and decaf. When I returned from my European tour last year, a few too many people asked me, "How was your trip?" I wasn't backpacking across Europe; I was working! I realized some of my hen friends still didn't understand the bad, cons and decaf of it all. While I do enjoy my work and the places I've been, I also want to bust any myths or delusions that I'm galavanting from city to city in private jets with champagne. We're more of a tequila coup. Here are a few things that suck the glamour out of my life.

1. Being on a bus at 5 a.m. barreling through West Virginia after a full day of work. We've had many late night travels on busses, but this not only took the cake, it also threw the whole thing in our faces. After performing two shows, we packed out stuff, nabbed our 100+ pounds of luggage and staggered onto Coach USA busses for a 9-hour, middle of the night trip. I slept for a bit until I was jolted awake by the bus swerving off the West Virginia highway in the dark at 70 miles per hour. After almost losing my life in a wintery, rural West Virginia, I slowed my heart rate, took a swig of some leftover, week-old juice, and adjusted my Snuggie for back support. We still had three hours left to go, but I was done sleeping after our little ride climax. I've never been one to be fearful in modes of transport, but a few seconds on a bus careening out of the lanes on a hilly highway was enough to bring fear out of the strongest rooster. We arrived to Charleston at dawn, bringing up the big final question of the night: time for bed or breakfast? With one elevator for 50 people and 100+ bags, breakfast won.

Wrong turn. 

2. Cutting my head open at the beginning of a show. We all play multiple roles in the show, and sometimes there is just barely enough time between numbers to rip off one silly costume and throw on another. For that we have a quick change area near the ice, which varies from a well-lit tent to a chair in a tiny dark corner, wedged between sharp objects and seahorse heads. In a recent venue with the latter situation, I flew into the quick change area to transform from a hidden prop pusher to a dancing fish. Once my purple fishnets were on, I quickly hooked the costume under my skates and jolted up to have my forehead bash a protruding medal corner of the arena bleachers. I screamed a profanity, blinked a few times and tossed on my fish hat. I was in a painful daze, but my fish number began in just 4 counts of 8. I always knew "the show must go on" is true, but the expression resonated like never before when one of my fellow fish told me my head was bleeding seconds before gliding in front of the audience. I adjusted my hat a bit in hopes to cover the gash, but I bled slowly and steadily for the 10-minute number. I forced that smile at the front row and wondered how much blood they were seeing on my forehead. After performing as a bludgeoned fish, I thankfully had a few minutes to bandage my head before changing into my artichoke costume. We have a complimentary first aid crate backstage. #Winning.

I'm going to need a minute.

3. Sitting inside a prop. They say there are no small parts, just small actors. I ask, "Am I an actor if I'm completely motionless and hidden from the audience?" This is one of countless things I ponder while spending 15 minutes of every show inside of a prop, literally doing nothing but breathing, blinking and thinking. Another question I sometimes ponder is "How did I end up here after earning a master's degree?" But as you can see, it gives me a great opportunity to reflect on things like my future, world problems and celebrity crushes. If they would just turn the show track volume down, I could take a nap.
I'm not complaining - I love my job. I just might not share this tidbit of my work as an alumni success story for the Journalism Department.

All of our jobs have their drawbacks. so I encourage you to look at positives of everyday life that The Cackling Hen doesn't always have. At 5 a.m. on a Monday, you're either snug in your bed or coming home from the bar. When you gauge your forehead open at work, I hope you can remove yourself and take care of it properly. And when you're sitting and standing at your job, just remember that you don't have to hide. As appealing as that may sound when there's an angry customer yelling at you, hiding in the dark is not as appealing as it sounds.

Go on, keep reading! Read Part II!

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