She told me that her daughter was a sausage.
Oh, not just any sausage. Her daughter is one of the famous "racing sausages" for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.
Here's the deal. As a promotional stunt a local sausage company, Klements, kitted out some folks in foam rubber sausage suits and had a race around the ball field after the sixth inning. It caught on because, well, I don't really know why this would seem like entertainment, but it may have something to do with it being a ball park in Milwaukee and everyone having had a lot to drink by that point in the game.
I kept asking my friend more and more questions about her daughter's job, as I consider this very important stuff.
Evidently they interview about 200 applicants a year for roughly 10 positions. An outgoing personality is said to be a major determinant in hiring, although just how you can project any kind of personality when wearing a foam rubber suit that covers all of you but your knees on down is a mystery to me.
The job pays minimum wage, and you join a crew of roughly 100 sausages. They work on a rotating schedule. Some hardened veterans have been sweating under the foam for a decade.
Of course the main duty is the Sausage Race. I had assumed that this was in some fashion "fixed". We live in a society where kids get participation ribbons for successful breathing. Surely there would be some balance, some way to ensure that victories were spread out evenly? I mean, would you let Chorizo lose on Cinco de Mayo? But my cynicism is ill founded. This is a fair, even up competitive race. Indeed, they publish statistics on this, and the relative lack of success of Senor Chorizo-he of the aerodynamically problematic sombrero-suggests an honest competition.
But the Sausages have other responsibilities as well. The official Brewers mascot is a certain Bernie the Brewer. When the team hits a home run Bernie goes down a slide into a simulated giant beer stein. The sausages stand by on either side of the slide to make sure he does not fall off. This seemingly trivial factoid acquires significance only when you remember how darned hot the suits are, and that a home run for the Brewers can happen in any inning. Those kids-mostly college age and apparently more women than men-are doing some serious sweating for that minimum wage job.
You can also hire one or more of the Sausages for private functions.
"Really?" I said. "And can you make them run for you?"
"Nope. No running allowed. No talking either, they come with a spokesperson."
There is another tradition at Miller Park. Fans are sometimes picked to wear the suits and run the race. But there are always official Sausages suited up and ready to step in on a moments notice should the fans turn up too drunk to run in a straight line.
Apparently the suits are unwieldy and it takes practice to master running in them.
And of course, there was the infamous Randall Simon incident of 2003.
A city outraged
The dastardly Mr. Simon was arrested, fined and suspended by the Commissioner of Baseball for three games. He tried to make amends, on his next trip to Milwaukee he bought sausages for a whole section of the stadium, and he on request autographed the bat and gave it to the young lady he had knocked down. Oh, and somehow she got a nice vacation to the Caribbean out of this.
But when visiting Milwaukee I think Mr. Simon had still better watch his back.
And here as a special bonus, some young people of my acquaintance re-enacting the Sausage Racers for a Halloween party. Their outfits, while otherwise accurate, appear better suited to enjoying festive food and drink.
ADDENDUM: I have learned a couple more key facts regards the sausages. They do not have to stay in costume the whole game. In fact, in their job of spotting for Bernie the Brewer on his home run slide they would be considerably less effective in character. I mean, they can't see all that well and it looks to be difficult to extend your arms. Also, regards Senor Chorizo, it has been noted that his won-lost record is quite variable. In his early years he did rather poorly indeed, probably because of the ungainly and aerodynamically difficult hat. But for a time he was winning with abandon. I asked my sausage contact about this and she admitted that for a while there they were putting "track stars" into that suit to even up the odds. But they did their job too well, and Chorizo was leading the "Sausage League" for a while....