It was the first day of my first job, and I had a big, goofy grin on my face as the giant pig came sauntering over to me. “Stay sharp,” I reminded myself. “This pig outranks you.”
Three months earlier, word had spread through Kennett Middle School that Brandywine Picnic Park was hiring. I assembled a killer résumé. Work history? None. Degrees? None. Skills? Fluent in Nintendo, conversational in Sega. I was hired sight unseen.
With its barbecue stations, mini golf course, and tubing on Brandywine Creek, the park was a popular destination for company picnics, family reunions, and other groups that wanted to get together—without having to be in the same room.
My first assignment on opening day was to exist next to the moon bounce. It turns out there was more to it than that, but the big chalkboard in the barn only said: “Pete Kennedy—Moon Bounce.”
And that’s where the pig found me. Surrounded by a clot of children, this icon of the park went through the usual mascot poses as he perambulated my way, then clapped a pink arm around my back. From inside the cavernous, smiling pig head came a muffled voice. “You’ve got to help me,” he said.
I’d entered the workforce not 30 minutes earlier, full of hope and promise. And here I was, elbow deep in the foot piece of a pig costume that had seen too many summers, feeling around for a pebble.
When I removed it, the teenager inside let out a sigh of relief. Then he turned his gaze on the moon bounce. “What are you doing?!” he asked. “You can’t have all those kids in there!”
The pig was right. There were dozens of children inside, bouncing gleefully—a rolling sea of bodies. “Pull everyone out,” said the pig. “Tell them to get in line, and let in 10 kids for three minutes at a time.”
I followed his instructions, and to my amazement, it worked. Two minutes after having my hand inside a stinky pig boot, I had reached a new level of authority. For the rest of the day, I was the puffed-up king of the inflated castle.
So why, decades later, can’t I get my 4-year-old daughter to clean up her Elsa dolls? Where’s that pig when I need him?
Pete Kennedy later had a job on the park’s train, yelling “Hey!” at kids who jumped off between stops. He eventually worked his way up to become a father of two.