Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My Life As An Ivar's Clam

[TBO's note: Ivar's is a local (to Seattle) chain of seafood restaurants. Their ads used to feature clams with legs. Like Ronald McDonald, these mascots would go on promotional tours for the restaurants.]

Mid-90s, and I'm in between temp gigs in Seattle (back when you could actually make a living as a temp here)...I'm collecting unemployment, but the money's tight, so I'm looking for some quick and dirty way to make some money.

One day, I get a phone call from my friend Al, about whom I may talk some more about later, 'cause he's one of those guys.

"Hey, buddy, how're you doing?"


"yeah, well, Patrick tells me that you're looking for work? What are you doing Monday?"

Nothing, I--

"Wanna be an Ivar's clam?"

Laughter, but I agree, because it'd be a(n) unique experience.

Plus, it'd be $75 for about three hours of work.

I call the lady in charge of putting promotional events together for Ivar's, and am told that I need to have my own pair of black tights and that I needed to arrive at their warehouse Monday morning at 8a to pick up the clamshell.

The first part's not a problem, as I'm theater folk (only slightly less inbred than carnie folk), but that second part...

"Hey, TBO, what's up?"

yeah, man, do you have a car?

"No, mine's in the shop...Don't you have a car?"

No. And we need to let her know today what's happening.


Eventually, he finds a friend who is willing to loan us a car, as long as we put something like $20 in to fill up the tank (those were the days). We agree to split this.

Monday comes.

We show up, and I shake hands with the woman I spoke to. She has a sheath of paper for me to sign, and a plastic cup. I couldn't believe it. This was a one-day gig.

"It's in case we want to use you again."

Okay...I know I didn't pass it. But she didn't know that yet. Our gig: Ivar's has opened a booth at the Everett Boeing Plant; we are to tour the facilities in the costumes and hang out in the cafeteria for lunch.

Sounds easy enough.

We get there. We have trouble finding the building in the complex, but finally some nice security droogs lead us in the right direction. When we get there, our contact is harried. "You're late by ten minutes! I was told you'd be here ten minutes ago." We explain that we had a hard time finding the building. "Well, the buildings are numbered on the side. I spoke with yadda, you guys need to call her back." Okay...

After the phone call, we're led to a small office. "You can change in here. I have some phone calls I need to make, so I'm sure you won't mind. We'll be leaving here in about 10 minutes."

Any embarrassment I felt about changing in front of this shrew, was quickly overcome by the fact that we both mooned her in the process of putting on our tights.

I'm finally ready to put on the clam. All reports of the thing not being heavy are a bunch of crap. Yeah, it's made of fiberglass, but fiberglass still weighs something. After the grinding in my spine subdues, we're ready to go.

Being inside the clam is a weird experience. You have a large fiberglass encasing that blocks all light. There's a light screening material that allows you to look out, but you can't look in. The thing rests on your shoulders, so duct taped padding is supplied. Finally, you have two handlebars that support the structure, and allows you to keep the damn thing in balance. The whole effect reminded me of playing Battlezone, that old vector graphics tank video game.

And the shrew leads us on the Bataan Death March tour of this office building we're in. Every possible narrow hallway, cramped elevator, busy office and snobbish muckety muck were visited by the two of us. This portion of the day was only supposed to last a half hour. We were doing it for an hour and a half, so there went lunch and a cigarette break. Because as soon as we met the VP of Constrictive Chairs, we were led to the lunch room.

It's funny the effect the clams have on people, especially the locals. Everyone became six years old the moment they saw us, and behaved as such. They'd pull on the mouth to get out attention, or they'd throw garbage in there, as if we were a lifesize replica of Mr. Mouth (goddamn punks). They'd hit the top of the clam to see what it was made of (*crunch* went the spine). Or try to look in to see if we were actually people underneath (duh).

I had my amount of fun, though. Especially when someone would get freaked out by the sight of a ginormous clam with legs in their midst. I'd chase after them, they'd run away....(*crunch crunch crunch* went the spine)

Three hours later, we were done. I was grateful to find that someone had thrown a $20 in there (must've had a struggling actor as a cousin or summat).

We moon the shrew one last time, and we were gone. Each of us with $65 cash in hand, not including tips (I had $85, Al ended up with $115. Our benefactor threw in $50 in his shell). We dump the shells back at the warehouse, and we go drinking at the Triangle Tavern in Pioneer Square.

We started drinking around 6p, and we closed the joint. The tab wasn't pretty.

I got home with $20 for my troubles. Thankfully, the unemployment check arrived the next day.


At 3:28 PM, Blogger Stine said...

Wait, I thought you *liked* being inside clams...

At 3:35 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

cheeky monkey

At 9:11 PM, Blogger PK said...

very very good story. Yay.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger JJisafool said...


That's why I never took acounting - I hate knowing that bottom line.

Gonna follow this up with the stripper story?

At 3:39 PM, Blogger the beige one said...

JJ that scab is still too fresh...


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