I came to the United States as an adult, but that did not stop me from soaking in the wondrous world around me with the enthusiasm of a 5 year old. Since I did not grow up in the US, every so often, something comes up that every kindergartner knows and has me stumped. The Case of the Otter Pops is one such time. When the call to volunteer at the School Sports’ Day at the daughter’s Elementary School came up, I jumped at the opportunity and I was assigned the Otter Pop station. I signed on a bit apprehensively. See my problem was I did not know what an ‘Otter Pop’ was.
I knew I would be distinctly uncomfortable handling otters. Having them pop out at me for a whole day seemed like a less than fun thing to do. Also, why Otters on a school sports day?
Maybe they are the mascot’s friends or something. But the daughter assured me with great enthusiasm that it is a ‘cool’ thing to do.
‘Cool’ – get it? Cool. And she winked in that exaggerated manner that someone just taught her.
She has taken to explaining her jokes to me which makes me wonder whether I am losing touch with my lighter side, or that she thinks that I am getting dimmer. Either way, I did not get it and asked her what the otters would do. I shall retain my shreds of dignity and gather them about me and suffice it to say that otter pops are some sort of frozen fruit juice treats. Why call them Otter Pops? You could ask the rhino’s grandfather, but I doubt he will have an answer either.
This famous Otter Pop Station was at the fag end of all the action. The children come up to the Otter Pop Station only after they have finished running and cheering around the track. That said, we otter pop volunteers got very little action to see. I kept running up between the races to see the runners and cheer them on, but I got to admit that the children were happier to see me when they came up for the otter pops than when I was cheering them on to run faster.
Self and co-volunteers at the Otter Pop Station started off being very accomodative. As the children came up, we offered them otter pops of their choice. We had cut and laid out enough otter pops of every colour available for the first batch of runners. The noisy bunch came and stood on their toes to peer at the table and they all went for the blue otter pops or the orange ones. The red ones and the green ones were slow-moving, but the pink ones languished. Frozen treats don’t languish solidly, and within minutes we had a soggy mess on our hands, while cutting out more blue and orange pops for the incoming folks. We had what one calls a ‘Sticky situation’. ‘Sticky’ because the otter pops melted – get it? Sticky.
Some children came asking for another otter pop after they were done (Of these, I distinctly remembered cheering some of them to start running since they seemed to think the run could also be a stroll and were merrily chatting around the track) We started giving out second helpings when a strict-ish teacher came up and shooed them away and glared at us through her spectacles and said ‘No more than 1 otter pop per child’.
So we gulped and shooed the second-helping-kids ourselves after that. Since the no-second-helping-rule was in place, we had folks exploring corner conditions with gusto. One came up and said he’d dropped his otter pop. We relented and gave him another one. This went on for a bit before we saw that while some of them were legitimate cases of dropping the otter pops, some others were being dropped after wading through 9/10th of an otter pop. (In case, one has apprehensions about the future lawyer population or the future QA test engineer population, one needn’t worry. This just shows you that our country will always a rich repertoire of lawyers and QA engineers)
Soon, we had a no-choice-in-the-matter rule in place because of the skewed preference for otter pop colours.
In summary, in every place, there are good jobs and bad jobs and sometimes, the bad jobs are the ones that bring most joy to the customers. I cannot tell you how much those children beamed when given otter pops. I tasted one to see what it was that was bringing them so much joy, but I could not get through a whole one. It was sugar based flavored syrup that was frozen, and it tasted as bad as it sounds.