Sadly, it wasn’t a joke

Published 9:28 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

I had one of the most disturbing experiences of my life Sunday.

A friend and I went to the State Fair of Virginia on Sunday. We had a great time — riding the rides, stuffing our faces with greasy food and looking at the award-winning animals, fruits and vegetables in the showcase tents.

We saw the biggest pumpkin in the state (1,007 pounds), held an adorable rabbit (which I almost bought until I remembered I already have five pets, and my apartment doesn’t technically allow them), and watched a praying mantis laying her eggs. We ate pizza, barbecue, cotton candy, popcorn, a candy apple, turkey legs, hot dogs and soda until we almost got sick. We rode two different Ferris wheels, as well as a couple of things that spun us around until, once again, we almost got sick.

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In between, we walked around and people-watched. About half of the entire crowd was carrying an Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin yard sign, or wearing a corresponding sticker. We never did see where they were handing these items out, though. We talked about how this election has become more commercialized, and discussed our theories why.

The disturbing part came near the end of the day.

We came upon the tent where you could pay a dollar to see “the smallest woman in the world.” I have seen this and other similar tents at fairs, and always thought they were a joke. This time, my curiousity overcame me, and my friend and I each coughed up a dollar to see what I figured would be a female baby, cat, rabbit, doll, or some other gimmick.

Expecting a joke, I was horrified when we rounded the corner and came upon an actual woman, not much bigger than the folding chair she was seated on. She was clearly not in a good mood. She told us her name was Gloria, she was from Jamaica, and used her cane to point out pictures of her son and daughter — both full-size — on the wall. We smiled politely and left.

I was horrified that I had paid money to see an actual person being used in such a manner. What I expected to be a joke turned out to be very disturbing and wrong. I think I’ll steer clear of those types of booths in the future, and I sincerely hope Gloria is being paid extremely well for the misery she’s enduring.