One of my side hustles, which I started nearly 15 years ago, is a children’s party venue. Now, if you could hand pick one person in the world who should NOT have been involved in that industry…….yes….. that would be me!!
I am very pedantic, ridiculously practical, a neat freak, obsessed with symmetry and have little tolerance for a child who behaves in a senseless and naughty manner. You know….how the average kid behaves everyday!!!!
So there I was, planning this venue in my head. Pretty much my priority was that the venue needed to be neat and practical!! Huh…..what in the world of children was I thinking??? So essentially, everything I planned (and executed initially), was what every child ever disliked.
Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough that I got booked up a lot. In retrospect, this could have had a lot to do with the fact that it was something new, in a good location (you know what they say….”location, location, location”) and definitely spotless, immaculate and orderly ….you know, everything every child hates, but what every parent loves. To be honest, it served parents’ purposes and kids had fun.
Early on however, I received a call from someone who told me that he had owned a party venue, and was closing down. He said he was ‘’leaving town’’ and asked if I was interested in purchasing his equipment. Well that was the start of a ten year epic journey.
This man, who we shall call “Sybil” (for reasons that will become more apparent shortly), was a truly colorful character. From the outset, most of what he declared was in fact all a lot of baloney. I was totally shocked that a person could so effortlessly and convincingly be so deceptive. Just as an example, the information given in the first five minutes of our conversation, transpired to be untrue. He was in actual fact NOT leaving town at all.
On purchasing his equipment, he asked if he could work for me for 3 months UNTIL he ‘’left town’’. Then once he did not ultimately “leave town’’…. this 10 year working relationship began, that would prove to be one that can only be compared to Basil and Sybil in the sitcom Fawlty Towers.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these characters, I would say, well firstly I would say, you don’t know what you are missing……but secondly, that you should imagine an intense, anxious, intolerant, cynical, super OCD character (that would be me…… Basil), working together with a laid back, affable, people person, who has a fiery temper, but manages to keep his cool much of the time, is pragmatic, collected and has the mind and imagination of a child (that would be Sybil)
In time, I got to realise that what was said, was not necessarily what was true (in fact very seldom). I was able to sift through the untruths, and manage a very volatile, but somehow stable working relationship with Sybil.
Now, as much as this description of Sybil might lead you to believe that Sybil was way more suited to this line of business than I was, bear in mind that this LITERALLY would have been like allowing your 10 year old child to make the day to day decisions about your business.
So with all these fabulous and mostly impractical ideas of Sybils, coupled with Sybil spending his week days at the venue to just ‘’potter around’’ (he was unemployed our Sybil was), I very uncharacteristically relinquished my authority, and just let things ensue.
Problem was, Sybil was as bored as an oyster, and just started making and creating things to pass the time. I would arrive there on a Saturday morning to set up for our first party of the weekend, and either be pleasantly impressed by some new idea he had introduced, or was so horrified at how he could possibly even have thought that something was acceptable, or even worse….safe!!! The latter would then lead to rip roaring arguments. As Sybil did not take well to criticism, even when it was constructive, things would be destroyed or dismantled in a temper tantrum only befitting of a juvenile. He would be huffing and puffing and grunting away, while I stood with hands on hips telling him to clean the mess before the guests arrive…. and we would then move on (with moping and brooding by both Basil and Sybil).
Kids LOOOOOOOVED Sybil, MY KIDS LOOOOOOOOVED Sybil, parents LOOOOOOOVED Sybil, animals LOOOOOOVED Sybil EVERYONE BLOODY LOVED SYBIL!!!!
He had this amazing ability of talking circles around people, having them convinced that they were they were fascinating, interesting and fabulous. He lied, joked, deceived and had everyone eating out of his hands. He radiated positive energy (something I think we can now establish…..I DO NOT!!!)
I, on the other hand, would be totally honest, totally myself, totally legitimate…… yet people still LOOOOOOOVED Sybil.
Of course not many saw the flipside to Sybil. Disagree with something Sybil has done/said/thought, and one had to contend with temper tantrums, coupled with the beginnings of a plot to “get revenge”. And best be warned, until revenge was taken, Sybil would not rest!! One knew to watch one’s back in this event. However, Sybil always managed to strike when you had, just for a moment in time, let your guard down.
In time I realised that I had to insist in no uncertain terms, that Sybil stay away from the venue when I was not there, as the thought of a temper tantrum, followed by something being furiously dismantled or reversed, just became too much to bear.
‘’If you have an idea, run it by me first.’’ I explained to a very pouty juvenile.
‘’Do nothing until I give you the go ahead.’’ I continued, feeling like I was talking to one of my children.
So, in essence, the rules were:-
No equipment unprofessionally erected with rotten wood picked up on the side of the road;
Rusty nails…..out of the question;
Electrical work…..DON’T EVEN!!!
Digging up beautiful green grass to make a mud pit for our potbellied pig in the middle of the venue….as opposed to the meters of available ground at the very back of the venue……NO, FORGET ABOUT IT!
The list could go on forever, and things that happened could be discussed for days, but long story short, Sybil had to be restrained.
Sybil’s partner (bless her cotton socks), was everything Sybil wasn’t. She was level headed, smart, practical and most importantly CALM. She was who I will hereinafter refer to as ‘’Treasure’’. That was always Sybil’s saving grace, as I would phone Treasure, offload my displeasure of Sybil’s unacceptable behavior (still with hands on hips, while Sybil was shredding pieces of wood and muttering to himself), threaten to get rid of Sybil forthwith. Treasure calmly agreed with everything I said, and told me she would chat to him when he returned home. No doubt Sybil did the same thing when he got home, and no doubt Treasure would just calmly agree with him.
We had the kind of relationship that led most people to assume we were an old married couple, who bickered constantly. It was a great source of amusement to hosts and guests alike.
What an adventure that was. It eventually came to an end, as Sybil, ten years later, actually DID ‘’leave town’’ with Treasure and their two kids.
Truth be told, when we were not have rip roaring screaming matches, we laughed…..A LOT!! I still laugh at things that happened over the years. We often said we could literally write a book about our experiences at the venue.
The adventures my kids and their friends had with Sybil, will forever be etched in their memories. He was very much part of their childhood growing up. He was like the Pied Piper.
The venue has evolved into a paradise for kids. Slowly you get to learn what appeals to children (loads of which would completely surprise you), and slowly you make the changes. The same applies to the adults.
I do miss Sybil though……..Sybil was my calm, but I was his common sense. I was the Yin, but Sybil was the yang. But mostly…….I was Basil and Sybil was…..well…. Sybil!!