The Best Job In The World
By Stefanie Schenk
Have you ever had an interesting job? Or one where you were treated like a celebrity? I had one during my university years when I decided to do a one year exchange program to southern Germany. The city was called Freiburg, and it's located in the Black Forest with a gorgeous cathedral in the middle and old walls surrounding it.
The German university system is a bit different than ours. First off, it's free if you get in. Secondly, the semester system had 2 long breaks - one in the spring and one in the summer. When the spring one rolled around most of us were looking for part-time jobs. We had spent way too much on beer, clubbing, and bakeries.
When spring break started, my Canadian friend Claire and I decided to go to the employment office in town. Many of the jobs were in construction, cleaning or ironing tablecloths for the local restaurants. It didn't sound too appealing but we were ready to do pretty much anything. Suddenly the secretary announced an opening for two people to do PR work for a local toy store. This sounded great. There was only one catch. Actually two. One of us had to dress up as the Easter bunny and the other had to dress up as a Teddy Bear. I remembered all of the other German students in the waiting room snickering and laughing. "You couldn't pay me to do that," I heard someone say. I turned to Claire and we both knew. "We'll take it," we said. At this point, everyone was laughing. I thought "No one knows me here. I can do what I want." Plus the money was good too. We followed the secretary out of the room and filled out all the necessary paperwork. We were to start the following Monday.
Monday rolled around and Claire and I took the streetcar to the Freiburger toy store. The manager greeted us and asked us to follow him into the back room where the costumes were stored. He held up the Teddy Bear one first and I was surprised. It looked like a fur coat. This was no cheap mascot costume. I noticed it had a button in its ear too signifying the expensive German stuffed toy brand "Steiff". The manager said the Teddy Bear one was more suited for a smaller person and since Claire was really short, she took that one. She slipped it on and when I looked at her I laughed. She looked adorable. Like a real life size teddy bear. The manager then handed me my costume. It was heavy and when I put it on, it was very warm inside. I heard Claire laughing and when I looked in the mirror I was transformed. I was now a traditional German Easter bunny with big long brown ears, big brown eyes, whiskers, a fluffy white tail and a soft cream underbelly. I looked so authentic I couldn't believe it was me. I smiled. I looked hilarious, but very convincing. The manager also gave us a little red wagon filled high with flyers of the store. We were to hand these out to all the parents and kids.
When we stepped out of the store and onto the cobblestone street, people literally stopped dead in their tracks. So this is what it feels like to be Angelina Jolie, I thought. Wow! We barely walked a few feet when we were mobbed by kids. They wanted to touch our fur, noses, paws and ears. This was the best job in the world!
We walked by a bunch of skinheads sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of town, laughing, drinking beer and smoking, surrounded by their dogs. Suddenly, one of them got up, grabbed my tail from behind and then tried pouring beer into my rabbit mouth asking me if the Easter Bunny wanted to get drunk. I pulled away and told Claire to speed it up. It was hard in those suits though and the little red wagon didn't help. Suddenly I heard one of the skinheads yell "Get that bloody rabbit". I turned around and saw a mangy looking dog with teeth bared running towards us. I yelled to Claire "Run!" We ran as fast as we could but the dog was fast approaching. I was sweating inside my suit. I'm gonna get mauled to death in Germany, I thought. The little red wagon was almost flipping over. I was starting to hyperventilate. I looked behind me and the dog was closing in. Was that a pit bull? I thought. Geez. The skinheads were laughing in the distance. That irked me. Suddenly I thought, "Hey, we're bigger than that dog. He should be scared of us." I yelled to Claire to stop. I turned around, put my paws up and charged. Claire did the same…except as a bear she was far more menacing. And she was growling like a real bear. The dog froze. Then it whimpered, turned around with its tail between its legs, and ran back to the skinheads. I couldn't believe it! Suddenly the sound of clapping filled the air. Then whistling and hollering. The streets were lined with people who had witnessed the event. Adults and kids cheered. We turned around and waved to everybody. All the kids came running up to us, hugging us. We felt like heroes!
I was really sad when the 2 weeks came to an end and we had to give back our costumes at the end of the day. I missed seeing the kids every day and putting smiles on people's faces. Now no one came up to me when I walked in town. I was just like everybody else again.
As far as I know, the toy store still exists. So if you ever go to Freiburg around Easter time, don't be surprised to see an Easter Bunny and a Teddy Bear pulling a little red wagon through the streets. And now you know, they might even be Canadian foreign exchange students.
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