Warrior Words: Confessions of a carny

"Yes sir,” I trailed off as I attempted to organize a disheveled pile of miscellaneous Beanie Babies, “I attend high school.”

Hoping that my brief remarks were enough to satisfy the concerned, yet acutely fascinated man, I redirected my attention to the growing mass of middle schoolers congregating around my booth, all waving their crumpled one-dollar bills in my direction. Squinting hard at the carpeted counter, my eyes struggled to focus on the pile of assorted bills accumulating before me under the merciless August sun.

It was Day 3 of the Wilton Carnival. One may think that as time lapsed, the crowds of excited children and exhausted parents would dissipate; however, such a naive sentiment proved to be very, very wrong.

Dropping the bent darts on the counter like a ticking time bomb, I quickly deserted the area to avoid definite injury. I was no more than an obstacle in the children’s bloodthirsty hunt for balloons, launching their pointy objects at dangerous speed with little heed for accuracy. I pressed my body against the wall, watching anxiously as a cascade of darts flew from untraceable positions. My attempt to then correctly distribute the prizes was comparable to controlling a Labrador when it spots food: so futile that it’s laughable.

“So do you, like, live in a trailer and travel around the country?” the intrigued middle-aged man prodded, fixing himself into my vision again. Unsure of whether it was his persistence on the intimate details of my life, or that his two younger children had been tugging at his sleeve, pointing frantically at the Gravitron for five minutes, part of me sensed that I was just another foreign, yet thrilling exhibit on display at the carnival. After lengthy reassurance he left satisfied, convinced that I was truly just another teenager working a summer job.

I returned to filling the wooden cabinet that stood ominously before me with balloons. Yet part of me was distracted, rendering me unable to concentrate on properly tying knots in the dusty latex and instead mindlessly letting air escape until they were too small.

The Wilton Carnival, making a long-awaited guest appearance in town twice a year, is the pinnacle of every Wiltonian adolescent’s year. Wasn’t it common sense that traveling carnies did not exist? That caged lions and bearded women did not hide in the catacombs of the Wacky Shack?

After debating, I came to the conclusion that as a fellow Wilton resident and a proud “carny” it was my duty to debunk the infamous myths surrounding my occupation. While my tale of managing a seemingly straightforward game of balloon darts may seem hyperbolized, the vast confusion exists nonetheless. Rest assured, we are just like you!

I am normal, if not irredeemably specialized in sorting stuffed animals; I am also a hardworking, educated member of society that may be a bit too knowledgeable on how to make the perfect stick of cotton candy. Despite the chaos that is the carnival, it is an invaluable, unique experience that I would not trade for the world. Having the opportunity to socialize with people from all walks of life, as well as changing where I work every week, is not something you can do with every job. Next time you spot the Ferris wheel and pink trailers parked next to the high school tennis courts, store this dramatized tale in your head and remember to love your local carnies (and to not throw darts at people for fun)!

Skyler Addison is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.