I took my kid to see the Easter Bunny.
By which I mean I was conned out of thirty bucks by a slick, manipulative hustle, smoothly operated by blank-faced teenagers.
SCENE: The Mall. 5:48 PM. Like kids getting ready for the prom, we were nervous and excited. A little awkward, but full of resolve and playing it cool. Typical, twitchy, new parent stuff. That’s what we’re like, rolling through the mall with all our gear, pushing our baby, yo. Struttin’. Stylin’. We stopped at the Children’s Place and I bought my kid a cheeseburger hat.
SCENE: The Easter Bunny Shakedown. 6:15PM. I immediately note that this isn’t what I had pictured in my head. Not that I even had a clear image of anything in my head. My memories are fuzzy. Like, I’m somewhere back in 1988, in the back corner of a department store, staring down a beige/somewhat yellowed Easter Bunny, sitting on an also beige/somewhat yellowed wicker chair.
I can’t tell if my memories have this yellow tint because of the fading, chemically-smearing photos stored in a bin in my parents’ basement, or because everything in the 1980s kind of WAS that color.
So yeah, wicker chairs. With a massive fake floral arrangement around it, partially strangling the back of the wicker chair like a vine. The flowers aren’t silk. They’re the kind that almost feel like sandpaper to the touch. The flowers are pink and yellow and beige and PUCE. Oh yes, puce. It was a staple color of the 1980s. Everything kind of WAS that color, too.
I don’t remember this for certain — maybe it only looks that way in those fading photographs — but I’m pretty sure the 1980s Easter Bunny’s costume fur is ratty and smells like gym sneakers.
SCENE: We hesitantly approach the female cashier with a neck tattoo. 6:17 PM.
Yes, a neck tattoo.
Holy shit dude.
This chick is hard. I’m talking Snoop from the Wire-hard, with the straight-up Baltimore-street accent sliding off the tongue as she tells me the full photo package is $29.99.
I’m not an easily intimidated person. I can actually be intimidating myself. Except here’s the thing about me now. I’m soft now. I’m standing there wearing a diaper bag strapped across my chest, gripping the foam handles of my Chicco Liteway Travel System Stroller, while wearing poorly-fitting jeans and dad sneakers and a shirt with a spit-up stain on it.
And my wife’s no help. She’s in full-on mom-mode kneeling down in front of the kid, simultaneously brushing his hair and digging in her purse to find a tissue to clean his cheek with.
You know what we look like?
Still, I manage eek out a teeny, tiny scoff at the $29.99 price. Snoop looks bored, but seems to take pity on me. She offers that I could buy just the one 5×7 for $19.99.
For twenty bucks, you get one stupid picture. For thirty bucks, you get a billion wallet photos that you don’t need, two medium pictures that you don’t need, but you also get the full resolution digital file.
The wife and I deliberate. Meanwhile, I take a moment to fully scope out the Shakedown. Unlike the mall’s Santa Village, which is an ornately-decorated walk-thru event in the center plaza, the Easter Bunny’s surroundings are stark. It’s a few pieces of propped up cardboard and fabric, quick to assemble and even quicker to disassemble, like some sort of sketchy tent revival that pops up overnight to take your money and heal the crippled. It sits in the quiet back corner of the mall, near the going-out-of-business artisan soap store.
In the middle of it all the Easter Bunny sits, completely still. Not a single movement. Is it an animatronic? Is it a serial killer? Is it dead?
Nope, it just moved. Phew.
I take a stealthy picture, pretending I’m just looking at phone, somewhat afraid the Easter Bunny’s goons might appear out from behind the mall fountain and drag me off.
SCENE: The Shakedown. 6:20PM. We decide on the $29.99 package. Suckers. And with that we are whisked through the Shakedown. I give my name, we’re herded like sheepdogs towards the rabbit, the kid get plopped down on the lap, is somewhat manhandled by the costume paws, a picture gets taken, I pass Snoop my credit card, and she passes me the pictures. 6:21PM. The deed is done. Happy Easter.