I had thought that the sort of dark, soul-testing experiences which Wodehouse depicted in his short story, Tried in the Furnace, could only be found in fiction. Real experiences, I assumed, could not be that heart and sinew rending. I was wrong. I was naive. When you put on the clothes, and walk around town as Waldo, such illusions vanish.
This is our third year doing the Find Waldo Local event but I had been shielded from this unsavory knowledge until now. You see my son Reid, who has both the physique and the mental grit to make an outstanding Waldo, had worn the outfit the first two years, walking the town, winning the second place ribbon in last year’s fourth of July parade, being Waldo at the party, doing what had to be done.
This year Reid is off on a fellowship, and no one else at the store except me could fit in the shirt. Reid had shared with me that being Waldo was a character building experience, and I had believed him, but I didn’t really understand. I know better now. I have walked as Waldo.
People love Waldo, which is a wonderful thing. They want to have their picture taken with Waldo, which is nice when they are kids, and only kind of okay when they are not. When you walk around town as Waldo, every 10 to 20 seconds someone in a car stops and shouts, or someone in the street points and exclaims. They all shout and exclaim the same thing: “I Found You, Waldo!” This wears thin. This tries the soul. After the 75th time it begins to feel that one’s time in the furnace is lengthening unduly.
You learn a good deal when you walk as Waldo though. You might feel that everyone in your small town knows you. You discover that they know Waldo more. And you grow as a person. Until you have explained the scavenger hunt, dressed as Waldo, to the long-time manager of the local Farmer’s Union True Value, your personal growth has been quite limited.
I have interviewed many types of individuals, living people, dead authors, wind up toys, Years, and Seasons. They have all been very obliging. Waldo is the only one who ever turned me down. I know why now. When you walk in his shoes you understand why he never talks.