- Sophie &Friends
Have you ever seen one of those clown cars? You know, the one that drives into the circus ring, screeches to a halt, and starts ejecting an unbelievable number of clowns in various shapes and sizes -- usually ending with either a really, really tall clown or an amazingly fat one (who usually gets stuck in the door and has to be pulled out by the entire posse). Or maybe you’ve seen that magic act where the magician reaches into his hat and pulls out a rabbit, then some flowers, then a hockey stick, then a vacuum cleaner... I just wanted to make sure you had that picture in your head, because that’s the only way I can describe the way my van was able to transport the amount of stuff we packed into it last weekend! It was practically magic.
I’ve always said that I’m a jack of all trades, master of none -- meaning I do a lot of things half-decently, but that I’m not necessarily an expert at any one thing. However, if there was an Olympic medal for packing, I would win the gold, hands down! You know that video game Tetris? I play the live, 3D version every day! I think that should I ever decide to leave this crazy business, I could go work for a moving company...
One of the main rules when you work with me as a party assistant is that you don’t pack the truck! Usually it’s because I need to make sure that the right boxes are with the right party (I’ll have two, sometimes three events’ supplies packed in my van at one time), but often it’s because I have to fit everything in, and if it’s not done by the Master Packer, it ain’t gonna fit...
This past weekend we did an event where (with the help of my sister Freda’s Ford Focus hatchback) we transported an entire 300 square foot freight elevator’s worth of stuff to the venue. The theme was Pirate/Princess. Not Pirate Princess as in the princess of a group of pirates (which sounds pretty cool, if you ask me), but Pirates and Princesses -- the two themes joined together (like a Reese’s Cup!) for a brother and sister birthday party. The client was adamant that we have decor, decor, decor... She wanted the rented party room (which I have to admit was a little institutional-feeling) to be warm and inviting and evoke both themes.
Now, since this party was during the day, that meant I had to rely on something other than lighting (which, believe me, can cover a multitude of sins and turn a dismal space into a palace). I had to load up the truck with anything and everything that conveyed the theme and that could cover up those concrete walls. Steve (my warehouse manager) and Freda pulled every bit of decor and fabric that fit the theme. It was daunting, the amount of stuff we had. Add on top of the decor the activities for the party: three boxes of craft supplies, two dress-up trunks (for boys, girls, and adults), face painting, a “tiny tot zone” with mats, toys, and a ball pit, and of course games. Oh, and did I mention the box of costumes for my staff? And I almost forgot -- did I tell you about the full-sized cannon and castle turret? Yes, and a ladder too. And all the client’s beverages, paper goods, and snacks? And one last thing... did I mention I have a compact van, not a full-sized?
Normally in this situation, we would just rent a ten-foot truck from our dear friends at Penske, but we didn’t have the budget to do that for this event. Instead, I had to flex my packing muscles. The first thing Freda and I did was divide the pile into two: absolute necessities and “gosh, I’d really like to have this if I could.” The “gosh” pile was pretty large, so we started pulling items from their boxes; for example, the children were on the young side, so we nixed the scarier pirate elements and opted for just a few choice skulls. Then we combined those items to make our “select decor” boxes. This helped cut down on the bulk a great deal, and also solidified in my mind the notion that a bunch of small items don’t make the same impact as a few large ones, like a large pirate flag or self-standing castle. We opted for more fabric, less tchotchke. Small things that could dress up a table (gold coins, beaded necklaces, jewels) were packed into things that had empty hollows (cups, serving bowls, risers). Every square inch was used.
Once our piles were formed I began to pack. Soft goods were smooshed into corners, soda bottles were tucked in between boxes and into the wheel well, long and skinny things were slid into the cannon’s shaft... It was quite an adventure in itself! All the while, storm clouds were gathering and I kept thinking, almost there, just give us a few more minutes -- THEN you can let loose your torrential downpour! (As you may have guessed, there was no room to pull into the dry safety of the loading bay.) Freda and I had a long discussion about which was more important to take: the large, cumbersome, awkward prop pile of gold, or the box of fairy flowers. We opted to take a few of the flowers and stuff the gold pile into the back of her hatchback.
Thank God the cops weren’t out in force that day, since neither Freda nor I could make use of our rearview or side mirrors... And I’m sure that would have gotten us a “friendly” warning from our fellas in the black and white cars...
Freda and I arrived early, before most of our team, so it was only a few of our assistants who caught the full clown car effect. However, after the party was over, when everything was packed up and sitting on the curb, there was a murmur amongst the assistants: “That’s never gonna fit...” Oh, ye of little faith -- fifteen minutes later we were on our way home!
As I drove off in my packed-to-the-gills van, I envisioned myself standing on the podium, roses in hand, American anthem blaring, the stars and stripes rising behind me as I bent to receive my gold medal in Extreme Packing. Even the Russian judge gave me a perfect ten!