The Big Whoooosh
Luckily, I've got several years of experience of winging it in front of large groups of people, having spent time in a student council during high school, and participated in a few high school theatre productions (which is great fodder for future blog posts, now that I'm thinking of it).
This time though, I was on a job and not feeling mentally prepared.
But the show must go on...
The kids were pretty well-behaved and seemed to enjoy the show, particularly anything that involved setting things on fire. The finale that I'd chosen for the show is called The Big Whoosh, a stunt that involves fire, flammable gas, water, and two giant water cooler bottles. Since we all know that water puts out fire, lighting a big match and dropping it into a cooler bottle with water on the bottom pretty much means nothing will happen. But if you use a clear, flammable material that looks like water, swish it around the bottle while talking to the kids for a minute or two, then light another match, something pretty cool happens.
I was getting nervous about this stunt, but knew that if it worked, the entire gym full of kids would be totally amazed.
"...so if I light this match and put it here, let's see what happens..."
So well in fact that the entire bottle melted into a shape one-third it's previous size, accompanied by a loud noise and gust of blue flame.
A blue flame that came within inches of lighting my eyebrows on fire, which I'm sure would be a great look for a Mad Scientist, but not so much for a normal person. I ducked away just in time, catching the eye of a teacher who had noticed what almost happened (she seemed to be the only one, as the rest of the people on the gym were staring wide-eyed at the remains of the cooler bottle). I winked, gave her a smile, and held the bottles up for everybody to see.
(Definitely learned my lesson: Don't lean over a flammable substance after you've lit it on fire. Especially if you like your hair and eyebrows.)
(Actually, I can't lie. To be honest, that was the second time I almost lit myself on fire - the other time being when a piece of burning flash paper decided to get caught in an air draft and sit on the chest of my lab coat before disappearing. I pretended this was on purpose, since the mother and rest of the kids at that particular birthday party almost had a heart attack. I'm a lot more careful with it now...)
"And THAT boys and girls is what happens if you light a fire and don't know what chemicals might be present!"
I had survived my first school show.
Since then I've done a few more shows, some workshops, and several birthday parties. Each one has been fun in its own way, and I'm learning how to patter between tricks or stunts and am getting better at involving the kids as well.
Today, I did a birthday party for a little girl and 14 of her friends what involved making glow-in-the-dark slime, playing with flash paper, explaining the science behind diapers (trust me, it's fun), and lighting some indoor fireworks. The kids were spellbound, and one little boy whispered "this is amaaaazing!" halfway through the party. They stared up at me like I was doing the most incredible things they'd ever seen.
This job is taking me one step closer to my own classroom. How incredibly lucky am I to have found something that's not only useful and relevant to my career, but definitely one of the most fun jobs I've ever had.
Imagine you're prepping for your job. You've got to take a bunch of stuff home with you in order to be ready for the next day. How often do you get to take home boxes of electromagnets, cool flammable materials, dry ice, and this:
Yes, I had to bring home a cotton candy machine to practice using it before a couple of birthday parties two weeks ago.
How nice of my friends to come over and show their support of my new job, huh.