Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Being Times Square Elmo

Let’s assume, for purposes of keeping me from getting sued or arrested, that Elmo is my name.  Like, my actual name.  I’m just some guy who happens to be named Elmo.  Elmo is a name that people have, sometimes, so this is a fact that could, conceivably, be true.  There was a saint named Elmo.  All similarities to well-known media properties are entirely coincidental. 

"I've got something you can tickle."
No, I don’t have any identification to back that claim up.  I’m wearing a fuzzy, red costume.  It’s got a round, orange felt nose, big googly eyes, and no pockets.  I don’t carry a wallet.  I have a cloth sack with the word “TIPS” stamped on it with plastic bedazzled rhinestones.  There’s no driver’s license or passport in my sack.  No credit cards, either.  Men with sacks don’t tend to have credit cards.  So you’re just going to have to trust me.

The costume is unrelated to the trademarked Muppet characters, the Childrens’ Television Workshop or the Sesame Street program.  Any similarities are, like I said, coincidental and unintended.  The costume is made in Taiwan.  According to the tag, it’s called “Tickles,” and it should be machine-washed on a gentle cycle or dry-cleaned.  I almost never do either of these things, so the suit is usually rank and filthy.

“Oh my God,” says a teenage girl, to one of her stupid friends.  “It’s a hobo Elmo.  It’s an Elmo hobo.  It’s Elbow.”

“You should totally tweet that,” says her fatter, oilier little sidekick.

“I will,” says the first one, and then she takes a picture of me with her iPhone. She’s not even sneaky about it.  The flash goes off, and everything.  I wave my “TIPS” sack at the girls, but they just giggle and run off.

People who take photos of me and then don’t tip are the worst people in the world.

If you see me on the corner of 42nd Street at Seventh Ave., and your kid hugs me and you have your picture taken with me, just remember I’m not that Elmo.  I’m another, unrelated, entirely coincidental Elmo. You have no idea who I am, underneath this.  I could have a tattoo of a pentagram on my neck.  I could have oozing, dripping sores on my face.  I might be missing an eye.  If your kid asks why Elmo smells funny, it’s definitely not because I just burned a J in the backseat of somebody’s Bentley with the guy who valet-parks cars at the W Hotel. 

Maybe I am Elmo Gutierrez; just a guy who does this job because his immigration status is questionable, and he can’t get a straight gig. 

Maybe my name is Elmo Yoder, and I came here two years ago, on a Trailways bus out of Des Moines.  I was the best singer in the church choir and the best dancer at the hoedown, and I thought I could make it on Broadway.  Maybe this is as close as I got.

Maybe I’m Elmo Johnson; a man who spends an hour every morning on the train to get down here from Yonkers; a man trying to keep his nose clean and put in an honest day’s work in a tough economy.  Think about that, and about how you call yourself a progressive, while you don’t punish your pampered, Park Slope private-schooled ten year-old for sticking his chewing gum in my fur.  I know you saw him do it.  Don’t just walk away like nothing happened.  I didn’t spend all that time bedazzling this sack for you to not put money in it.  It says “TIPS” for a reason, asshole. 

Maybe I’m Elmo Schmitt, convicted felon.  Try not to think about how there are no schools within five hundred feet of Times Square while I’m tickling your kid.  Parents will let anyone in a cute costume touch their children.  It’s really kind of amazing and terrifying.

Ever taken your child to visit a department store Santa?  That is a man who was in need of seasonal employment; a vagrant of some kind.  Think about it for a second, and try to calculate the odds of whether the department store Santa has a substance abuse problem. If you roll up Santa’s velveteen sleeve, will you find needle tracks and prison ink?  Go ahead and let your first-grader sit on his lap.

You can’t even roll up the sleeves of the Elmo – excuse me, the “Tickles” costume.  The gloves are attached to the sleeves.  I can’t get out of it unless somebody unzips the back for me, and helps me take off the head.  When you’re taking a photo and then not paying me, don’t think about how hot this gets in the summertime.  Don’t think about how difficult it must be for me to deal with having to take a piss.

Psychookie probably just pees right in his suit.  “Psychookie,” by the way, is what I call the psychotic Cookie Monster who hangs out by the flagship Toys R Us store.  I don’t even think he bought a Taiwanese knock-off suit.  His costume looks like it’s made out of blue dryer lint.  His googly eyes are just ping-pong balls krazy-glued to the head of his suit.  The pupils are just drawn on there, and not even with, like, a sharpie or a magic marker.  I think he scribbled them on with a ballpoint.  His sack says “COOKIE” on it, but he still wants tips, and if you take a photo and don’t pay him, he will chase you down the street.    

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