Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Being a mascot.

Did I ever tell you that I sometimes work as a mascot?

I started dressing up as a certain bear for a certain bank several years ago, and continue to do the odd gig to this day (odd being the operative word).

The first thing I remember noticing about life inside the bear costume is that people really treat you differently when you're dressed as a big cuddly animal, and I mean this in both a good and bad way. Little kids generally like me WAY more when I'm in costume. Then there are those jerk kids who just want to punch me and pull my arms off 'cause "YOU'RE NOT REAL! I CAN TELL!". And of course there are the adults who are repulsed by me and the security guards who I can tell might not stick up for me if someone tries to punch me out.

Last weekend I did a mascot gig in Dundas Square, where there were bands performing. One band member got on the microphone and invited everyone to kick me in the ribs. Perhaps he doesn't like the bank my costume represents? It got me to thinking about how people don't really consider the person inside the mascot outfit, they just see a corporation trying to cute-ify itself; a wolf in sheep's clothing, luring children into their fold.

And that made me a bit nervous about dressing up in costume at Yonge and Dundas.

Still, I had a good time. There was music playing all afternoon so I danced for hours, and got a lot of the usual, "YOU MUST BE HOT!" and "I HOPE THERE'S AIR CONDITIONING IN THAT SUIT!".

Oh, and the best. The BEST? Is the parents who try to force their small children to hug me. 75% of kids think I'm awesome and want to hang out with me and be my best friend, but those other 25% think I'm the devil and their well-meaning parents just can't stop it with the "It's okay, honey, come on, give the bear a hug, come on, it's okay!" and meanwhile I'm thinking "I'M NOT OFFENDED, DON'T FORCE YOUR CHILD TO HUG ME PLEASE" but I can't say anything 'cause that's one of the rules. I also can't take my head off in front of anyone 'cause it might make children cry.

Things not to do when you see me in costume:

- Hand me your baby. I can't see very well, and have a huge head that I have little control over, so shouldn't be holding delicate things.
- Allow your child to punch me. This isn't fun for me, padding or no padding.
- Hug me really hard, pressing yourself against my chest to test if "THERE'S A GIRL OR GUY IN THAT SUIT!"
- Ask me any questions that might require more than "yes", "no", or "I don't know" in response. (I can nod, shake my head, and shrug. That's pretty much the extent to which I can communicate.)
- Expect me to have any sort of peripheral vision. I can see through the nose part of the head and that's it. I walk around in fear that I will accidentally trample a small child.

It's a fun job though, I must admit. The kids who love me, really love me...and seeing their reactions to the big furry animal I'm pretending to be is priceless. They don't care that I'm a corporate marketing tool. They just want to hug the big cuddly bear.

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