I had my first caricaturing gig since the move this past Wednesday. Ironically, it brought me two hours back to my hometown (well, near my hometown, in Freeland), but it was just for the day and left no time to meet up with anyone, so please, no hurt feelings, I'll be in touch soon.
For those who don't know, Freeland is maybe fifteen minutes north of my hometown in Shields, and part of Saginaw County proper. So basically, I consider it my home as much as any other place within a half hour radius of my parent's old house. But let me just say that as homecomings went, Freeland really knows how to make a guy feel like shit.
My friend Heather, now in charge of the parks department for Freeland, hired me to draw caricatures for an event in one of the town's parks. We had a contract I wrote up which specified a two-hour block of time whereby I'd draw as many people as possible, with no guarantee whatsoever of getting everyone in the entire park done in that time.
That said, I was at record-speed for my caricaturing. Not in over ten years have I drawn that fast to accommodate so many. I clocked it at approximately 30 seconds per caricature, for 120 minutes with no breaks. If you do the math, that averages out to about 240 kids that I drew. I'd say Freeland got their money's worth and then some. And to her credit, my friend Heather was appreciative of my work.
With an hour left, I approached my friend Heather about informing the crowd, at about five minutes to, that I'd be done at noon. Whenever I tell people that I'm done, inevitably there's some grumbling from those still in line. I feel it more appropriate for those in charge of the event to tell the crowd to save me the harassment, but inevitably it ends up being me telling the masses. Still, Heather said she'd take care of it.
As five to noon came around and I labored on my 237th drawing, Heather was nowhere in sight. So I did what had to be done, and politely informed the crowd that I was done at noon, and that I could complete the next three kids in line.
The parents was stunned. You'd think I was handing out insulin and just said I was fresh out. Normally the crowd would thin out after such news, but this crowd stood its ground, as if waiting to see if I were joking. When I completed the third and final kid, I reiterated, saying I was indeed done now. As I packed up, a woman approached me and told me she understood that my time was up, but wanted to tell me that I did a very good job. I shook her hand and said how much that meant to me. I even leaned over to my cousin, who was there with her kids, and told her how bad I felt letting her down.
There ended the niceties.
A big fat swarthy guy bellows to me that he's been in line an hour. I apologized profusely, saying I was only contracted to work from ten 'til noon, and that I was sorry I couldn't get to him in time. He persisted. I explained to him that it was out of my hands. I wasn't getting paid to stay and draw beyond my scheduled time, and the remaining line was such that I would easily have been there another half hour for free. I completed packing up and proceeded to find Heather to collect my check.
That's when this over privileged soccer mom calls me over. I turn around and see what she wants. She then proceeds to berate me, saying she knows my choice to close down is all about money, and how she thinks I'm being unfair to the children left in line. She's really tearing into me.
That's when I said enough was enough. Though I stayed professional and kept myself from swearing or insulting anyone, I strongly told her that I'd driven two hours to the event, worked two hours non-stop, plus drew over two hundred kids in record speed, adding that I was the fastest and most accurate caricaturist anyone was going to find, and that no one could fault me for quitting at my contractually assured time.
That wasn't good enough for her, and she kept pecking away, as if she wanted me to really lose my cool. If that was her goal, she really lost out. The last thing she said to me was something along the lines of "Anyone who wouldn't stay later to finish the line of people doesn't have a heart." So I said I must not have a heart then, and walked away. I heard her keep on clucking in the background, but I was done with her.
I found Heather, told her what happened, and she felt very bad about it. That's when the fat guy from a few paragraphs back came waddling up to us. I stopped mid sentence with Heather, turned to him and said, "Go ahead. Tell her what a horrible job I did, how I didn't stay and extra half hour to draw everyone in line and how she should never hire me again." Funny thing was, I don't think he knew she was in charge. Instead, he starts back up on me. With a DJ playing in the background, the guys sarcastically says: "I just wanted to see why the DJ was still going, since it's past noon already," inferring that if he doesn't quit at noon then why should I. I could only repeat everything I'd already told him about my obligations. I even added that it was nothing personal against him, that if I had the time I'd have gladly drawn his family, but it just wasn't going to happen. He then said, "Well, you'd said your piece and I've said mine." I agreed, and went to shake his hand, which he half-heartedly and very begrudgingly took.
I was absolutely livid. Never had a crowd turned on me like that before. I've had people in line before who were pissed that I was done with a gig, but besides a little moaning and groaning they take it in stride. And in my defense, generally if there's maybe three people left at the end of a gig I'd stick around and draw them. But in this case there were at least twenty kids left. It just wasn't in the cards. And I find out later that my wife Laura and my cousin Anne also got into it with the woman (Anne told her I had the biggest heart of anyone she knew)and defended me to the hilt. But that rotten bitch still stood her ground, got in the last word and eventually huffed off.
In the end, what gets me the most is the sense of entitlement these people had. This was a totally free event, with free food and free events like caricaturing, balloon animals and others. Where do they get off complaining that they didn't get their share of a free thing? I believe in my art. Its value, its power, its capabilities. But in the end, I am not to egotistical or unrealistic as to think that my drawing is anything more than a sheet of paper. Perhaps it's a testimonial to my work that spoiled housewives get all steamed if they don't get their slice of my art, but honestly, how pathetic is it to get so worked up over a drawing, or lack thereof? I hold true to the thought that if my decision to not draw these people is the worst thing to befall them in their lifetime, then they're getting off light. And besides, as if I'd draw any of them after the shitty reception they gave me anyway.
So anyhow, worst gig ever. I can't believe how spoiled these folks were, and I cannot recall hating a group of people so feverishly as I did that day. But I know I handled myself professionally no matter how ugly they got, and Heather assured me she'll use me for future events. And as an interesting post script, I got a call later that day from Heather, who said the fat guy came back and apologized to her, and asked her to convey his apologies to me as well. That made a difference. That other soccer mom bitch with the overblown sense of entitlement however can go screw herself.
I deserve way better than this shit.....