It started with the rain. Tammy Wynette refused to perform on the uncovered stage, the foot traffic slowed to a trickle, and my boss Jerry couldn’t stop grumbling about the replacement band.
“The Cheese Boys?” he muttered, as the sounds from Turtle Tap’s house band echoed through an empty grandstand. “This is the best those college idiots can do?”
All week Jerry had been irritated by Riverfest!’s new management, who reminded him of the college graduates who used to boss him around at the factory before his escape to the freedom of owning his own business. A popcorn wagon, an industrial laundry, and now and then the odd miscellaneous hustle. We operated in what you might call the gray economy: not exactly illicit, but not exactly well documented, either. Did we pay all our taxes? That wasn’t a question Jerry asked. He knew he paid enough.
For years we had taken in cash from the fairgoers, our white money bucket filling throughout the day with hard-earned dollars from hard-working people looking to have a good time at the fair.
This year Thurl Albrecht, the chief college idiot, had installed a new system to “address issues of uncaptured revenue.” In order to make sure that the carnies and concessionaires weren’t skimping on the percentage they paid to Riverfest! Inc., fairgoers were now required to buy tickets at an official Riverfest! booth, which they then exchanged for rides and games and food.
Jerry had taken this personally.
I don’t think it bothered him that he was viewed as a cheater, because he knew he sort of was—he even took a kind of grifter’s pride in it.
But the new system—these red tickets—had messed with his relationship to cash, and that was unacceptable.
Something would need to change. Continue reading