There was a counter about three feet wide with a gorgeous woman, about thirty-years old in a lace bra. Her nipples were completely visible through it. The space was about three feet square with a blue velvet curtain touching Nigel’s right shoulder.
The woman’s skin was literally snow white, in fact, she looked like Snow White. Her thick Cockney accent broke the darkness, “You like boobs eh?” Nigel realized he was staring at her boobs. He looked up to make eye contact with her. She continued,“That’s auright mate. Boobs are made fer lookin…and more. C’mon in.”
A hand came from behind the curtain and pulled Nigel through. The owner of the hand was another younger woman, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. She was wearing lingerie and no shoes.
In Nigel’s mind, this was so strange to see something he had certainly wanted to as a healthy young man, but people walking around in lace under garments was something that surely only happened after ten o’clock at night. It was barely four o’clock. She pulled him around to a small settee and forced him down.
She sat near half on him. Her left breast popped out of the garment and landed against his chest.
He swallowed hard. “Oh dear God.” Did he say that out loud or to himself?
“You can touch it.” She invited.
Without knowing why, he followed the direction. This was the first “boob” he had ever touched in his life. It was velvety like the curtain.
She continued her pitch, placing a printed menu in front of him. “Like a drink?” She pointed to drinks on the top of the list.
His eyes scanned down the typeface. Halfway down the page the word, “Girls”, appeared in big bold letters. Under it there was a list with prices.
Talk to a girl. Two pounds
Sit with a girl. Two pounds
Touch a girl’s breast five pounds
The list went on and on to describe things that Nigel didn’t even understand. Then it hit him. He’d already had the first three things on the menu and didn’t have the money to cover it.
He stood up and hollered, “No. No. Nononono.”
He moved for the door. The East Indian man and the lady at the counter blocked his path.
“Where you fink you’re going mate?”
Suddenly, the girl from the couch, stood up and screamed,
She pulled back her lingerie to reveal a massive and obvious pregnancy.
“The baby is upset. I feel I’m going to lose it”. Her piercing scream and words made the room spin ten times more than the pint of bitter earlier did.
Nigel hollered, “I didn’t touch her!”
She fired back, “He grabbed my tit!”
The East Indian decided to help. “He shure did I sar it!”
Nigel had no choice. He reached into his pocket and pulled out all his coins. He tossed them in the opposite direction and made a break for it. His is conscription notice flew out as well. He dove after the slip of paper as the staff went for the money. Ripping the curtain from the anchor, he made it into the narrow hallway and proceeded like a fish upstream with the East Indian man and Snow White, in her bra and panties, in hot pursuit.
He broke into daylight at the top of the steps. London was still busy and bustling with apparently no idea that a sexual purgatory was laying right under its pavement in the dark shadows. He collided with a body, nearly knocking the person over.
How fortuitous that it was a London Bobbie.
“In a hurry lad.
The policeman grabbed him stiffly by the arm pulling him aside the building. At that moment, the East Indian man and Snow White appeared.
“They tried to rob me!” Nigel shouted.
The perpetrators and Nigel all attempted to tell radically different versions, shouting over the top of each other. It was still incredibly bizarre to Nigel that this all happened in the space of about ninety seconds. Now, here he was standing on the street accusing a naked woman of attacking him. Just seeing a woman in lingerie on the street was strange enough. Nobody seemed to acknowledge that her breasts could be seen completely through the sheer fabric. Still, with all this, it was distracting to Nigel.
“Shut up!” the cop shouted.
“How old are you?” The Bobbie demanded.
Nigel began to unfold his conscription paper.
“Nineteen!” he said, confidently.
“Oh Bollocks. Let me explain something. If you are nineteen and you’re in that club, you owe them money. But if you’re not nineteen? If you are say fifteen or sixteen and you’re in that club, they’re in trouble for soliciting sex from a minor. So, I am going to ask you again. “Ow olde are you?”
“I am fourteen years old. I was born on 3 September 1951. I am fourteen years old sir. My name is…”
“I don’t want your bloody name. Shut up. Does anybody ‘ave any questions?”
Everybody shook their head no, sheepishly.
“Have a nice day” were the Bobbies last words as he continued on his path. The three stand for a minute sneering at each other.
“Quick lookin’ at my boobs.”
“Well, I paid for it.” Nigel quipped.
The East Indian guy chimed in, “Actually, Love, he did.”
Nigel returned to the hotel and locked himself in the room. He wasn’t going anywhere and he wasn’t talking to any more strangers. London was dangerous.
The hours passed as Nigel sat bored, but safe. At six p.m. sharp, there was a bang on the door. A voice came through, “C’mon boy!”.
Nigel opened the door a crack to see the Major looking fresh and sharp. He wore a clean, crisp, white shirt and a tweed blazer. He had a clean shave, a crisp haircut, and looked the picture of health, like a true London businessman. Nigel looked back on his bed for something wear, but he had no change of clothes. He felt the Major looked so nice while he, looked like a worker at a carnival.
“C’mon let’s go to the pub.” The Major offered.
They had only walked two or three blocks when the Major got winded. Another coughing fit ensued. He doubled over for a moment then got his composure and spit.
“You should have someone look at that.” Nigel said with empathy.
“Oh I have son. Don’t worry about me,” he replied.
“Well maybe you should stop smoking the cigars for a while?”
Turning the topic the Major inquired, “So, what was with the girl in the clip joint?”
“The what?” Nigel tried to defer.
“You don’t look like the prostitute type. The guy with the gold teeth, the lady in her knickers…the cop? I was getting me hair cut at the barber shop. You made quite a scene.”
“Oh, God. You don’t understand.” He winced.
The Major laughed, “They take all your money?”
Nigel hung his head and nodded yes.
“Well, no worry. I got dinner. You got lunch, and I never thanked you, proper. Let’s try this place.”
As they sat in the pub, Nigel limited himself to one pint of beer as he ordered bangers and mash. The Major enjoyed a beef Wellington pastry filled with a glorious looking steak and mushy peas. They covered Nigel’s background, which took all of five minutes, and then the Major asked Nigel the most important question of all.
“What do you think of the carnival, the circus, the whole thing?”
Nigel leaned back. “Well, I finally understand why you’d have to be a General Major to run one. I mean, I still wonder how you got there, but I see it’s probably not that different than moving regiments of men. There’s gear, encampments, managing soldiers- even if they are in greasepaint. It’s a machine just like an army. You run armies. It makes perfect sense.”
“Knights of Columbus, you’re a smart kid.”
The Major continued. “I have been doing this seventeen years and no one has ever put that together so simply. It is an army. It’s an army of clowns and cultures and people who hate each other and some who love each other. There is starvation and battles. There are small rewards and very little appreciation. It’s an army. You got it.”
Nigel thought it best to get it out while he had the chance and the pints of bitters were giving him the courage to say it, and possibly, the Major, the temperament to hear it.
“I have some other things to say. If that’s alright?”
“I said you were smart, not an expert. But, sure. Humor me. Tell me all you know.”
Nigel began. “Well, first of all, the way the latrines are built is a mistake.”
“Well, maybe, not a mistake, but it could be better. Instead of digging all those holes so close to the fairgrounds, we should use the bull dozer when we get to camp and start a bit farther away then, build a platform for the latrines. Like the way the freak show is elevated. That way you have one line you can snake around and we’ll build chutes, like the concrete trucks use. Open the chutes and, instead of moving the latrines, we could put the water truck on that side and blast the shoots every couple of hours, like plumbing and rinse the waste way far away maybe, another thirty feet from the grounds, Then, at the end of every day, push some of the dirt back into the hole on top of that day’s waste, to cover the smell. A lot of people complain about the smell and, it’s right behind the food and beer garden. When the wind blows, it stops the sales.”
The Major snickered. “Okay, so sewage?”
“So, instead of piling the animal waste at the other end behind the freak show, we’d put it all in there every day. I think the whole place would smell better and people would stay longer.”
“So more money?” The Majors attention was now getting serious.
Nigel got excited. “Oh I think there’s a lot more money! The food courts and beer garden and rides are all backwards.”
“How so?” He inquired.
“Well, when people come in, they all buy an entrance ticket, a circus ticket, and a freak show ticket. The minute they get inside they head to the beer garden because that’s what they need. The second they get a beer, their kids are fighting to drag them out to the rides and games. They’ve had a hard week and they come here to blow off steam. The food tents are up front, mixed with the games. The carnie rides are near the back with the freak show, another destination. This all causes a lot of traffic all over and it’s chaotic.
The general corrected, “Nigel, you are going to have to slow down. You have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Let me say it differently. If we put the Big Top at the back, when you walk up, you’ll see the whole tent, not just the side. It will create more excitement and anticipation. Then, we put the beer garden right in front of that. It’s the first destination people seek. Let them walk a bit to get there. Then, the minute they walk in, they have to walk by all the games and toys, food and rides. They’ll take note of all the things they’ll want to do. Keep the rides where they are but, now they’ll be across from the beer tent. People can drink more beer and watch their kids on the rides, so you’ll sell more beer and more rides.
“Alright…Where’s the freak show?” He pressed.
“We put it where the Big Top is. But we don’t open it until after the circus performance. In the circus performance, we talk it up, like it’s another circus. Nobody leaves here without seeing the freak show, they’ll wait. So, if we start the circus performance at five instead of seven, we can still do two shows on weekends. The Friday show can come at five because everybody shows up here at four to drink, anyways. But, if you refuse to open the Freak show ‘til after the circus, we can make the line go straight down the midway.
“It’s too narrow.” The major protested.
Nigel was on a roll, “We’ll widen it because the Big Top is now at the back not the front. They’ll be stuck in line drunker than ever, which means they’ll play more games and eat more food as the slow line moves. In fact, move all the food tents together and bring all the games by the front gate. I watch these people. I’m not talking about making it easier or harder on any of us, just organize it to make sure they wait when we want them to wait. Where they can spend money. Closing the Big Top earlier means a whole area we can shut down earlier. We can focus their energy and money right where we want to. The longer they stay the better we do. So the stench is gone, the excitement is bigger and even more dramatic and, there’s a schedule that stretches the experience as far as their wallets.”
The Major couldn’t help but be impressed with his new protege. “Anything else?”
“The food could be better, not the candy and popcorn. The sausage in pastry is wonderful but, they’re always stale.”
The Major exhaled, “That’s out of our control. That’s the Romas”
“Yes the Romans. What is with that guy?” Nigel sneered.
“First of all, it’s Roma’s not Romans. The Romans were in Rome. The Roma’s are a race of nomads. They are from Persia. And, don’t call them Gypsy’s. Yes, I heard. Roma’s, not Gypsies. Don’t rely on the clowns to teach you culture. The Roma’s own the rides and the food tents. We have the rest. There’s nothing to be done with him. He runs his own show, which means, I probably can’t move one ride or one of his tents. He has his own way. So, thank you for your management advice. I will take it into consideration. You’ve had a pretty full, what’s it been, three or four weeks?”
“I didn’t mean to be too bold.” Nigel cowered yet pressed.
“How long have you owned the Circus?”
“You mean the tents and the trucks?”
“Well yeah, the whole thing. The animals, the whole thing.”
The Major laughed. “I don’t own it.”
*34) Identify yourself to police or government officials and tell the truth about identity. Their job is to figure out the rest. Be fast to tell the truth about who you are, slow to incriminate yourself.
*35) Never get pulled into doing something on the road you wouldn’t want your family, your boss or your friends to find out about.
*36) All of your ideas are not good. Some are dumb. Accept that. Keep coming up with ideas. One good one is worth 5 bad ones.
*37) Every business has its stink. If you face it and deal with it you my decrease its impact…ignore it…more stink.
*38) Observation can lead to questions no one has asked. Nigel simply watched the crowd behavior and traffic patterns to come up with a strategy to improve sales by moving the offer around. This is true for retail and online offer construction. Including store design or website experience. Let the consumer design the offer.
*39) You don’t have to own the entire circus to make the lion’s share of the revenue. Ownerships creates liability at every layer.