Anteater For a Day

Brian Kim/File Photo

“They’re going to riot if you don’t get out there.”

My coworker, Derek, and I sat in the back of the bookstore, wide-eyed and breathing heavily. A third associate, Calvin, was standing in the doorway, camera slung around his neck. I was still in two-thirds of my gorilla costume with the mask off, but my glasses were still slightly foggy from my breath. I had spent the past hour and a half promoting for the bookstore, walking back and forth, waving signs and scaring people.

Derek was worse. His face was red and dripping with sweat. He held Peter the Anteater’s head in his hands and gazed at it wearily. Though he had just been standing and taking pictures, the past hour and a half in the padded suit had left him completely spent. He wouldn’t make it another half-hour in the suit.

I was set to replace him.

Calvin and I helped Derek pull off what remained of the suit. As the torso and legs came off, it became obvious what kind of shape the suit put you in. Despite the basketball shorts and T-shirt he was wearing in an attempt to stay cool, he was completely soaked in sweat. The mask, which smelled like the hundreds of sweaty-haired people who had ever put on the suit, had made it difficult for him to breathe. He had barely been able to see.

In contrast, I was wearing jeans and was a full five inches taller than Derek. My legs would be soaked within moments and my eyes would be in Peter’s nose.

“Charles, I wouldn’t put on the suit,” Derek told me.

“I don’t know if I want to,” I replied.

“If you’re not going out, you’re going to have to tell the crowd,” Calvin said, reminding us of the reality of the situation.

Outside, the line was growing longer. A low buzz pervaded the students waiting. Where was Peter? People wanted their graduation photos.

With an exasperated sigh, I pulled off the rest of my costume and reached for the pants that made up Peter the Anteater’s muscular legs. As I pulled the legs over my jeans, a friend went for a canister of Lysol. Suited up and already slightly damp, I pulled the sanitized helmet over my head.

Half blind, I was led back to the photo drop by a person on my arm, worrying that every moment I would run into something. My feet finally planted in place, I received my instructions: Stand. Pose. Don’t pass out.

The next half hour was a blur of blind shuffling and posing. All I remember clearly is the heat of the suit, the occasional, “Let’s pretend to fight over him,” or “Let’s hug him!” I could hear all of this through the helmet and began to develop a vague sense of pride.

An hour later, noticeably damp and slightly feverish, I sat at the bar in the Anthill, beer in hand, chatting with one of the bartenders about my adventure as Peter the Anteater. The hour that I had spent in darkness had gone much quicker than expected.

As I flipped through the pictures that had just been posted on Facebook the next morning, I couldn’t help but smile. Even though I originally didn’t want to put the suit on, though I almost decided not to, though I almost passed out, it was completely worthwhile.

My story is just another example of a pretty well-known lesson: Screw comfort. Being uncomfortable is not a reason to not do something. It only adds to the catharsis you get at the end of whatever you’re doing. There’s more to life than not being inconvenienced. You’ll never know how many people you’ll make smile if you don’t try.