08-30-2011, 07:39 PM
I counted the days, then the hours, then the minutes before my first night on the job at the Magic Castle. I steamed the wrinkles out of my silky white blouse until it was limp, and pressed my black skirt until the creases could slice cheese. I arranged and rearranged my hair until I found a style I decided made me look more mature. By all that was holy, I was going to create the best first impression I could!
Mom and Dad still had some misgivings about my working in a strange place, for someone they knew nothing about, and worried that their little girl would get hurt. Well, their "little girl" was all grown up now, and could take care of herself, I told them, so they could stop with all the fretting about the "strange place" and all that other stuff.
But no matter how much I reassured them, they kept showering me with the same dire warnings they gave me when I started grade school every year: "Watch out for strangers, don't accept anything from them, and if you do encounter one, call us or go to a neighbor we all know, you have our phone number, here's a quarter for the pay phone (this in a time when everyone carried cell phones!), and if you get in any trouble, find a policeman," and on and on and on, until I wanted to scream at them. Good grief, I was seventeen years old and going to work, not some kindergartener on her way to school!
I had planned to borrow the car and drive to the Magic Castle, but my overprotective parents insisted on chauffering me there, to my embarrassment. I had to be at work an hour before opening; it was still daylight when we arrived. I was so glad to finally get there I did not even bother to wait until the car came to a complete stop; I bolted out as soon as we hit the curb and ran to the service entrance around back, relieved to be away from the folks.
At last! My first night on the first real job I ever held, my initiation into the adult world, as I saw it at the time. I punched in, and headed to Criss' office, reporting for duty.
Criss was glad to see me ready, willing and able for the night's performance. He showed me my station in the lobby, a podiumlike desk with phone, reservation book, and seating chart sealed in clear laminate. I had been practicing my lines in front of my bedroom mirror like an actress, how to meet, greet, and seat the customers who came in, so I was ready, or at least I thought so.
Opening night is always a harrowing experience. It's make it or break it time, whether it's a performance on stage, a new store or restaurant, or whatever. Making a good impression is foremost on everyone's minds, and the slightest screwup could spell disaster. No one wants to be a flop on the first night. Once the first night is over, however, the rest would be cake.
I took a deep breath and positioned myself at my station, ready for whoever walked through those heavy wooden doors. And who should walk through those very doors but my own parents, ironically giving them the distinction of being the first customers of the Magic Castle I was charged with seating. I was stunned for a moment, thinking they were there to drag me back home, but Dad's words surprised me even more.
"We have a reservation for two," he said. "Name's Terrell."
I brought myself back to reality and looked up their name on the list. Sure enough, there they were, reservation for two at seven PM. I put on my best hostessing face, picked up a couple of drink menus and led them to their table as graciously as I could, right near the stage.[SIZE/]
I hurried back to my post to meet, greet and seat the rest of the crowd who had shown up, shuttling from the desk to the floor (as we called it) and back again. I should have worn Nikes instead of my dress flats, I thought, what with all this running back and forth. I definatly got a workout that night, but I kept my game face on, being as polite as I could, if only to impress Mom and Dad, who were watching my every move, that I could handle this job.
I managed to catch my breath around eight-fifteen or so, fifteen minutes before showtime. The place was packed. I could not see the stage from where I stood, but I could catch a glimpse between customers. I so wanted to see the show, it was worth the risk, I thought. I just had to keep an eye on the desk every now and then.
So with one eye on the desk and the other on the stage, I saw the greatest magic act I had ever seen. True, it was the only magic act I had ever seen, but it set the standard for the ones I would see in the future. Criss was more than good, he was spectacular, doing tricks and illusions I never thought possible. The audience agreed, with gasps and applause after every miracle they saw.
The show ended around nine-fifteen. Many got up to leave, still chattering about the show they had just seen. I can still remember bits and pieces of conversation:
"That guy is amazing! I mean, how the heck did he do that?"
"He sure knows how to handle a deck of cards! I wonder if he plays poker?"
"Did you see the part when--"
"Yeah, that was awesome!"
"Ah, it's all smoke and mirrors! There's a trick to it."
"--best thing to come to Boren since I don't know what."
You're right about that, I thought.
Sunday morning lived up to its given name, with sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye could see. Even though I had worked late until one AM, I was up bright and early to fetch the Sunday paper so I could read the reviews about the Magic Club in the entertainment section.
Weeding out the circulars for Mom to scan for coupons, I located the article I was looking for. A Magical Night: Illusionist Criss Angel Brings Magic and Mystery to Boren's Magic Castle.
I was a little miffed. Boren's Magic Castle? Huh! What nerve! I thought. What right did the city have to claim the Magic Castle as its own? It was Criss Angel and Criss Angel alone who made it happen. I chose to overlook the slight and began to read the article.
I can't quote the whole thing word-for-word, but the article was lavish in its praise for the performances, as they should. There was even a positive review about the staff, how friendly we had been, and how courteous and efficient we were. How I glowed with pride when I read that! I had done it! I had actually accomplished something worthwhile. Today, I said to myself with a feeling of self satisfaction, I am an adult.
That feeling was short-lived when Mom came downstairs and told me to get ready for church, plummeting me back into my subservient role as dutiful daughter. I wanted to stay home, as I wished vainly every Sunday, but resistance was futile. I was obliged to put on my Sunday best and be driven to the dreary little white church to be put to sleep by the same dreary sermons.
That particular Sunday, however, would be a turning point in my life, though I didn't know it at the time when Dad drove the family sedan into the gravelly church parking lot. I got out of the car, Bible in hand, with all the enthusiasm of a hamster in a cage, spinning around and around on its wheel and going nowhere. I repeated my usual Sunday prayer, God, get me through this day!
There were little knots of people here and there, as always, gossiping away as they do every week before the service. Normally, I ignored them, but this time the words "Magic Castle" caught my attention.
"Did you go to that magic show last night?"
"Yeeeesss! Wasn't that something?"
"That magician seemed a little strange to me. I mean, he dressed like a hippie, torn jeans and a t-shirt. I remember magicians wearing tuxedos and evening dress. He also wore these big medallions as well."
"You can't judge a book by its cover, Shirley."
"True, but he came over to our table to do some card tricks, and I noticed he wore earrings! Earrings! On a man! I mean, honestly!"
"You think he may be...you know..."
"He might. How many men do you know wear earrings? No normal man would do such a thing."
I left in disgust. Bunch of old biddies! Here's a guy who knocks himself out performing the greatest magic show in the world, and all they talk about are his earrings! So what if he did? Like the lady said, you can't judge a book by its cover.
Another knot of churchgoers caught my attention, men this time. I kept a discreet distance as they conversed among themselves.
"You'd get a load of that guy?"
"Yeah, he's a pretty good magician."
"No, I mean how he looked. He must cut his hair with a weed whacker or something. And he must get his clothes from a trash dumpster."
"So, he's a little raggy. He still does a heck of a card trick."
"I dunno, I think he looks a little bit gay."
"No, really, I think he is."
Again I left, feeling disgusted. Again, I encountered another little gossip group, this one worse than the rest.
"I don't think we should have the likes of him in our community. He's...he's not normal."
"How not normal are you talking about?"
"Did you see those strange necklaces he wore? And, I got a good close up look at him. He was wearing earrings like a woman!"
Again with the earrings, I thought irritably. Cut the guy some slack, willya?
"And he had nail polish on his fingertips! He is perverted, I tell you! He'll be setting a bad example for young people everywhere."
"I don't know about that, but he seems so dark, and mysterious. There is something so..."
"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say that, but...unsettling about him."
"Because he practices magic, is why. The Black Arts. He is a sorcerer, a sinister enchanter."
"He only did a few card tricks, for heaven's sake! My Uncle Mac used to do them all the time at parties, and he wasn't a sorcerer."
"Oh, sure, it seems innocent enough at first, but in time, he'll be snaring innocent children into his web of lies and deceit, perverting their thoughts and turning them away from morality."
I had had enough! "Listen!" I snapped at them. "Criss Angel is none of those things! He is a decent person, and a talented individual, and the best thing that ever happened to this boring little town! He's not a sorcerer and he is defiantly not a pervert!"
"Now, see here, young lady--"
"Don't 'young lady' me! I work for the guy, and I know him better than any of you! You can't judge a book by its cover, you know. If you'd just take the time to get to know him, you'd see how wrong you are!"
With that, I stormed away. It was only after I had calmed down that I realized what I had done. I had stood up for what I believed in, before those I had been taught to show deference. It was both scary and exhilarating at the same time. There would be consequences, Mom and Dad ordering me to apologize, but I resolved to stand firm. They were wrong, and I was right. I knew I was right.