One thing I like about ushering is that you never know what will happen when you walk through that door and start working. Most days, it's a waiting game: waiting for an event to start, waiting for it to be over, waiting for the building to empty of people. Some days though, I start out pretty certain of what my day will look like and it takes a sudden turn into totally new territory.
Today I was assigned to work in arena seating, helping patrons find their seats, looking for spills and other safety hazards, solving problems on the fly, and just generally providing that kick-ass customer service that I do my best to provide.
Several minutes after the doors were supposed to open, the lead supervisor in the seating area called me down to the floor. There was a safety issue that couldn't be fixed in time for the patrons to get in and the televised event to start on time. It was something that could have put the front row of one of the student sections at risk, so I was stationed there to point out the problem to the students, keep an eye on them, and remind them throughout the game to stay well back from it.
The students in that first row were lounging comfortably. They appeared pretty much like any of the other students in the section, though the first two of the group of six were casually painting their faces in patterns of orange and white. With about half an hour until game time, though, the first one stood up and said, "We ready to do this?" And as one, they stood up and pulled their shirts off, including the woman in the middle. She was wearing a black sports bra, which immediately got the attention of the camera operators on the floor whose video feed goes to the scoreboard screen.
Five of the six friends began painting letters on their chests. The woman helped her friend outline his "E," and then he began filling it in himself. She tried to outline her own "X," but was unsatisfied with the straightness and symmetry of her lines. Soon she had 3 guys surrounding her, helping her get it right. The sixth friend, incidentally, if you're keeping score, did not remove his shirt, but instead worked the Pentax camera, documenting the occasion.
So there I am, directly in front of them, trying not to ogle the smooth, curvaceous college body and trying particularly not to get on camera ogling the smooth, etc. etc. Then suddenly I was entirely surrounded by the cheer squad. Apparently I had set up shop right in the middle of their territory, and there was barely enough square footage for me among their pom poms, megaphones, and sundry promotional items, including t-shirts, mini-basketballs, and other giveaway items.
So bare abs to my left, short skirts to my right, and me in the middle trying to look professional, is what I'm saying here.
The game progressed, and the students were pretty good about remembering to stay back from the safety issue. I got a few smiles from listening to them razz the officials ("OK, I'll give you that one, Ref, but I'm expecting a make-up call!"), and the opposing team's coach ("Don't yell at them, Coach! It's not their fault they can't read!") and players ("Hey, #23, is that Frost & Glow?") and fans ("Lighten up; it's just women's basketball!"). They participated in all of the cheers and songs, and lamented the rest of the crowd's lackadaisical attitude. "Our fans suck," one observed. "Yeah," another agreed. "That's because they're all old people."
As the end of the game approached and our team closed the gap and came within a few baskets of the opposing team, the student section came to life. They danced like crazy on the time outs; they jumped and waved and screamed through the free throws. The front row even picked up their string of interlocking folding seats and pushed it back into the row behind them, giving themselves some more room to move and groove and jump. Sadly, our team wasn't able to pull off the come-from-behind victory, but the students' adrenaline was up, and after the end of the game and the singing of the school song, they started rough-housing, jumping on each other, and trying to smear each other's body paint. One jumped on another's back, transferring his own "A" to his friend, and suddenly they were staggering backwards, about to topple right over my safety issue and right on top of me. I stepped forward, and pushed them back onto the risers, preventing potential injuries to them and to me, and covering my hand and forearm in sweat and body paint. I was relieved that the one I touched was not the woman.
So maybe I saved some lives today without groping a nearly topless woman, and managed, I hope, not to be filmed or photographed looking at the bare abs or sports bra of a woman half my age or contemplating the legs of God knows how many short-skirted cheerleaders. I'll call that a pretty good day.
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