In a former life, I worked as a manager for a shoe store chain called Shoe Carnival. Many of you in my half of the United States have probably heard of it, perhaps even shopped there. They are built on the concept, as the name implies, of selling product in a "carnival-like" atmosphere. This includes a barker-esque person who stands on a platform above the sales floor–the mic person–whose job it is to make announcements highlighting specific sales, run contests to give customers some kind of discount, and annoy any and all who try to leave empty-handed.
I, during my stay there, was among the most annoying. Still, I could sell high heels to a lumberjack. And during those times when there were no lumberjacks in the store, I had plenty of time to think of ways to parody the work I was doing and, before my bitter parting with the company, I began work on a musical tribute to the company. I never completed it–having lost interest in it once I was working elsewhere–but I did complete the opening and lyrics to one song. Based on Phantom of the Opera, it’s a funny look at what I did while I was there and, in way, how I did it. I thought it was lost with my late CPU, but I found a copy the other day on a disk inside my briefcase.
And so, for your guffawing pleasure and with mild embarrassment, I give you the incomplete Phantom of the Carnival:
Phantom of the Carnival
(The play opens at the front of a Shoe Carnival. The mic stand sits in center stage with a couple aisles of ladies shoes to stage right and a couple aisles of kids to stage left. Ben, a new associate, is waiting in front of the mic stand for Rick, the General Manager.)
Rick: (walking to Ben and shaking hands) Hi, Ben, I’m Rick, the General Manager here at store 500.
Ben: Nice to meet you.
Rick: Yeah, great to have you aboard. Now, I know you’ve done your orientation and all that, correct?
Rick: Great, so today we’re gonna really kick off your experience here at Shoe Carnival. You’ve already toured the store, so you’re pretty comfortable with where everything is?
Ben: (pointing) Yeah, that’s kids, followed by mens, mens athletics, ladies athletics, and ladies dress and casual.
Rick: Good. Today, what I want you to do is stay right up front here and help our mic person. Here at Shoe Carnival, our mic person is the element that separates us from our competition and creates our fun atmosphere by promoting special deals, providing informational announcements, and just plain having fun with the customer.
Ben: Sounds great. What do I do?
Rick: Well, we’re going to be pretty busy today, so I want you to help greet customers, try to encourage anyone leaving without new shoes to go back to look again, and answer any questions that the customers may have about where things are in the store.
Ben: No problem.
Rick: You’ll also help Eric–he’s our mic person–with anything he might need.
Rick: If you have any questions, I’ll be up in a little while to check on you.
(Rick turns to walk away, but stops and turns back to Ben.)
Rick: Oh, one more thing. Eric might seem a little bit eccentric. Maybe a little weird. But he’s a very effective mic person, so we just let him do his thing. In fact, were about to open, so he ought to be out any time now.
(Overture begins. Fog begins to roll out of the mic stand.)
Rick: There he is. Let me know if you need anything.
(Rick walks off stage.)
Ben: (calling after Rick) Hey . . . wait . . .I . . .
(Ben turns toward the mic stand. Overture still playing. Fog continues to roll.)
Ben: (looking off stage) Uh . . . Rick?
(Ben turns back to the mic stand and stares motionlessly as Eric rises slowly in the center of the mic stand. Eric is wearing a mic person shirt, a cape, and a Phantom of the Opera mask.)
Eric: (booming down at Ben) Who are you?
Ben: (voice shaking) I . . . I’m . . . Ben.
Eric: (booming) Are you with the Opera?
Ben: The . . . Opera? No, I . . .
Eric: (loudly) Then be gone! Join the audience like everyone else.
Ben: But Rick told me . . .
Eric: Ahhh, Rick . . . the theatre manager. Very well, if Rick deems you worthy, you may stay. But you must not interfere with my work, or a disaster beyond imagination willl occur!
(A lady customer walks by the mic stand.)
Ben: Hi, ma’am, how are . . .
Eric: (interrupting loudly) Good morning, fairest maiden.
(The customer jumps at Eric’s greeting and watches him warily as she goes down a ladies aisle.)
Rick: (peering out from just offstage by the ladies department) Hey, Eric, we have some ladies over here that want a special.
Ben: (to Eric, who is bending over out of sight) Now, let me see if I have this right: Attention, Location, Product, Price, Time, and repeat. Right? . . . Eric?
("Music of the Night" music begins.)
Eric: (singing) Listen, ladies,
Can you here me calling
In aisle X now
Prices will be falling
I have the magic pen
So now let the deals begin
And get ladies clearance shoes for just half price
For I control the music of the mic
Dress shoes, sandals
All will be included
That aisle looks like it has just been looted
I’ll only mark ten pair
So get on over there
And ladies please don’t push and please don’t fight
Just listen to the music of the mic
Aisle X is the place
To pick up half-price shoes
Bring them here
And I’ll gladly mark them down
Pick them out
and you’ll save some extra cash
On clearance shoes,
The price we will now slash.
Slip-ons, lace ups
We have a wide selection
These great deals are
Sure to pass inspection
But we only have 10 pair
To mark down from over there
So pick them out, as many as you like
And save now with the music of the mic.
Lady Customer: (running to the mic stand with 10 pair in her hands) Me-me-me-me-me!
(Eric marks the shoes as Ben looks on.)
Ben: Wow! That was amazing! She got 10 pair–
Eric: Insolent boy! Do not speak to me!
Ben: (throwing hands up) Okay . . . sorry.