Figueroa-Levin: Keep Times Square safe for safe Cookie Monsters
When I was a kid, my family went on a cruise. It was the kind with costumed characters walking around the ship. My little brother, despite having gone to theme parks before and seeing these characters, wasn't into it. I can understand why -- it probably comes from the same part of the brain that makes me afraid of clowns.
But after some prodding, my brother finally walked up to a character to interact with it. The oversized large-eared mammal suit put my brother in a head lock and gave him a noogie.
That was the last time my family ever went on a vacation that had people in costumes.
The headlock and noogie weren't hard, and my brother wasn't hurt. The ship officials apologized and offered a bunch of free stuff, but the damage was done. That little boy was now terrified of people in costumes.
Today, my brother could easily best any of the Times Square characters in a fight if necessary. But if he were still a kid, he'd freak out at the sight of all those costumes.
I used to like these characters. I thought they added a fun, humorous flavor to the city. Creepy, obviously not licensed and poorly made character costumes that reminded me of pictures I had once seen of North Korea's bootleg Disneyland greeted me whenever I found myself on 42nd Street. My inner child has always loved adult-sized anthropomorphized animals.
But the news about the character who shoved a 2-year-old made me reconsider. It's an emotional reconsideration, coming from a mom who also has a 2-year-old, and it brought back that old memory of a cruise ship and a little brother.
You just don't know who's in those costumes. That Elmo could be a theater major in need of cash, or it could be an unbalanced anti-Semite. That big-eared mouse could be a drunk, or it could be high school senior (full disclosure: When I was a senior, I wore the costume of an infernal rat at a pizza-party franchise).
I know a lot of costumed characters are decent people trying to work, but unless there's some kind of (enforced) regulation, there are going to be more stories of unbalanced people yelling at kids. It's like the good old days of Times Square -- except now the junkies are wearing furry blue costumes. Think twice before letting your child interact with one.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.