Family Fun Day FUBAR

The community health organization that I work for recently threw their annual large scale “family fun day” — the selling points are fairly appealing: fun, sun, music, free food, children’s activities, community outreach from a variety of different non-profits and support groups, multilingual HealthPlus and Fresh Air Fund counseling, and, of course, healthy lifestyle choices! Who can’t get down to that??

Well, in fact, Zeus has his qualms with family fun.

We’d all heard rumors of rain (80% chance according to the weather channel) so we spent most of Friday preparing our building for the crowds — no sense in taking the risk of having the thing outside. Besides, our building is pretty spacious and an inside festival would be *way* easier to clean up. But mid-morning the next day the weather looked decent so our plucky Director of Programs ordered all the staff and volunteers to move everything and everyone outside into the sunshine for set up. I protested! But to no avail.

Minutes after set up was complete our little fiesta received the most sudden, intense, devastating, torrential, quasi-biblical downpour that I’ve ever experienced. Add to the mix hundreds of wet, hungry, disgruntled, non-English-speaking people, many of whom also happen to be infants or toddlers, and you have nothing less than full. blown. chaos.

It was like the 3D ride through a scene from the The Thin Red Line. Some people fled inside right away while others cowered shivering under the tents we had set up, under which all the food had to be hastily moved as well. There was no chain of command. There was no procedure. We were IN THE SHIT and we had to leap into action — Desiree began to marshal the tent-cowerers inside the building and coordinate transport of what was left of the food to some kind of impromptu food service point, which we managed to set up in the downstairs hallway.

I happened to be dressed as Shrek at the time, humpback and all, desperately imploring the enraged crowd to form a line for their chow, which was spread so thin that each person received an egg roll and a spinach triangle and a tightlipped smile from the beleaguered Americorps workers who had taken charge of food service. Then the word came down from on high that the food was to be moved to an upstairs classroom — we had to shout, shove, and struggle forward every step to get it up there.

“The people are pushing me…I’m trying to wait in line, but they just keep pushing!” one bedraggled lady cried to me and I, still costumed, looked her right in the eye. “Well,” I said, “then you gotta push em back.”

It went on like that — like a hurricane hit and people were fighting for survival — for what seemed like hours. Eventually the rain stopped and everybody stumbled back outside, grudgingly set up their tents once again, and, as the stiff-lipped Brits might say, “made a go of it.” At the back end of the afternoon the crowd started to thin, I slipped out, slinked away home and remained in a coma for the rest of the weekend.

Screw you, family fun.


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