Toronto Mike

Risking My Life On Black Monday - Tales From The Ex

During the 125th Canadian National Exhibition, I'm sharing stories from my three years working there as a game booth attendant.  Below is one of many.

We called it Black Monday.  Labour Day Monday was always the last and busiest day of the CNE.  It was also well known as a day when crowds of youth would come to the midway and cause mischief.

In order to attract people to our game booth, the largest stuffed animals were hung around the booth as bait.  They were hung from the rafters with S-hooks and string.  That's it.  On Black Monday, the game booth manager could expect the attempted thievery of a prize or two or three.  In 1991, I was the game booth manager.

I can't remember what the wholesale cost of the jumbo prizes was but I think they were about $45 each.  For whatever reason, we managers believed we had to protect these things with our lives.  On Black Monday, the volume of business was staggering but I was obsessed with keeping my eyes on the prizes.  No punk kid was going to snatch one of my giant pandas or pink elephants... not on my watch.

I remember one especially manic sequence in particular.  One group of teens ripped down a prize on one end of the booth while another group grabbed a stuffed animal on the other end.  Both parties began walking away in an attempt to blend into the thick crowd.  I had to be a cowboy.  I didn't even hesitate to think about whether these petty thugs were carrying knives or worse, I just knew they had property that I was to protect.  I jumped into the crowd and snatched back the first prize, threw it in the booth and made a bee line to the second.  Again, I think I startled the guy making off with the loot because I came upon him out of no where and ripped the animal out of his hands.  With both prizes back in the booth and with my blood curdling with adrenaline, I jumped back in and prepared for retribution.  None came and I had saved Ardo about $100 cash.  More importantly, I protected my territory and won another battle for the good guys.

Today I wouldn't risk a beating or my life for the sake of a couple of prizes, but teenagers seldom use such logic to their advantage.  I was young, dumb and in charge that Black Monday.  I haven't felt as powerful since.

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