rides-pharaohs-fury_lgThe carnival was back in town this summer. For four days I sat in a ticket booth and sold the gold $1 coins that are used to play the games of “skill.”

Thursday evening started out slowly.  The Susan B. Anthony dollar coins came in rolls of $25. I quickly learned to break the roll at the top and remove five coins, so that I then had 20 “precounted” coins left, to efficiently trade for a $20 bill as my fair goers stepped up to my window.

Soon the crowds arrived. The fairgrounds were bustling.  $20’s, $50’s and $100 bills were excitedly presented for exchange through my little gated window.  The coins were flying out at a speed I never would have dreamed they would be in this tight economy.

People were there to have a good time… and they sure paid for it! My “money runner” brought me a $1000 bag  of coin rolls, to replenish my stock, about once per hour.  And then it really got busy. He could barely keep up with the demand.  I became a counting machine.  The lines never stopped.  Where are these people getting all this money to play games that are obviously designed to favor the house?

Friday night the crowds were bustin’ down the doors to get in and start the games again.  We put on extra cashiers and extra runners.  I didn’t think it could get any busier than this, until I experienced the Saturday players.  These were the real party animals.

Just $2 for the privilege of squirting water into a balloon until it bursts before anyone else’s balloon or throwing a ball into a basket or into a milk can, etc, etc.

Some young men became incredibly competitive at one particular hoop game just outside of my booth.  I was totally engrossed in concentrating on my lightning speed money exchanging, but I could sense the thrill of the spectators as they cheered for their favorite basketball throwers.  There was no mistaking the moment a basket was made.  The crowds roared.  The losers demanded rematches.  More $20’s and $50’s had to be turned in for another handful of coins.

I started the money exchanging at noon, got a half hour break at 6 p.m., and continued until midnight.  Waaaaaay past my usual bedtime, but I was stoked.  The air was charged with the electricity of carnival. I felt like I was selling fun.

By Sunday, the final day of the fair, the crowds were lighter, or maybe I had just become so efficient at dispensing coins like a slot machine on a “Jackpot” payout. But by 11 p.m., with school and work coming in the next morning, the crowds had dispersed.

The booths are hot, stuffy and cramped.  The coins make your hands black and gritty.  The paper money is dirty and sweaty.  The hours are long and the pay is not so great… but I can’t wait till next year’s fair to do it again!

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