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Hokey Pokey with the Surgeon General
You may know the Surgeon General as the guy who yells at you for smoking. I know him as the man who did the Hokey Pokey with me at the Library of Congress. Well, not me, but Power Panther. For those unfamiliar with the character, Power Panther is the blue wild cat developed by the Kansas Department of Education who's now the face of the United States Department of Agriculture child nutrition and wellness program, Power Panther Pals.
No, that's not me. But that's the exact same costume I wore.
The morning started with me sprinting to my car and then driving to a leafy Northern Virginia neighborhood by the Metro. Once parked, I slathered myself in sunscreen and hopped onto the sidewalk. After passing rambler after rambler, I finally made it to the train where I sat for the next half hour, mostly smelling other passengers' newspapers and heavy perfume. When the train pulled in at my stop, I dashed out the door and up the escalator to Capitol Hill.
One of the reasons why I accepted this mascot gig—despite having mostly abandoning my children's entertainment work when I graduated college—is because it took place at one of the world's most beautiful libraries. Any excuse to visit the national library, a 1897 Beaux Arts relic, is welcome. Normally I stand outside of the Jefferson Building for a bit to admire its impressive entrance, most notably its grand stairs. This time I appreciated those steps a little less as I had to run up them. One thing a mascot cannot be is late. The children notice and tears soon follow.
But all that rushing amounted to nothing. The actual event would not start for two hours. I spent that time reading a former professor's novel. One of the benefits of freelancing as a mascot is that most companies pay you for a minimum of four hours. It doesn't matter if the event is an hour. You still rake in the bucks for four hours. The downside is that you don't usually know anything about the event until the day of. In this case, for instance, I had no idea I was even playing Power Panther and I certainly didn't know who Power Panther was. The other downside: You have to wear a big, awkward costume where you mostly can't see, hear, or breathe. Chances are you're going to be moving around a lot, too.
That day the Library of Congress was hosting a special program about exercise and nutrition for area children. It should be a given then that I had to get ready to dance or otherwise jump around. What was a little less expected was that the Secretary of Education would be reading a story to the children first. And once the kiddos were allowed to move about, the Surgeon General would be leading rounds of the Hokey Pokey and Simon Says. Only in D.C.
Minutes before showtime, my handler helped me into my costume, which is quite an ordeal with all the many pieces and their flaps and straps. Unfortunately the costume didn't fit me properly, either. Much tugging, wiggling, waiting and miscommunication later, I was giving a high five to the Surgeon General for a photo opp. That was the easy part. Next came the exercise.
My interpretation of Power Panther would never win any kind of athletic award. With all that huffing and puffing, I was reliving my elementary school experience as the chubby kid in gym class. As the Surgeon General rocked out in uniform, I was always two or three steps behind, not sure if one of my gloves or plush boots would pop off. And jumping jacks? I just flailed instead. Had my Hokey Pokey host been less elegantly attired, I might have looked slightly less ridiculous but only slightly.
While I can't guarantee I wasn't soaked in sweat after that, I can guarantee I didn't stress-smoke after that.
#Real #LunaLark #Mascots #SurgeonGeneral #LibraryOfCongress #PowerPanther #LifeExperiences #PersonalEssay #MyLife
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