On "Ace of Cakes," they were making a cake for Cirque du Soleil in Baltimore, and they were going through all of the various layers and asking the employees of Charm City Cakes what skill they had that would be transferable to a circus environment. They were coming up with funny answers, but no one really had any hidden talents that related.
Of course, I immediately began to wonder what my response would be if I were asked that question. And then I realized: I have a talent that would actually be quite marketable in a circus.
I can walk on stilts.
Yup, stilts. How did I ever acquire such a random skill? When my sister and I were in middle school/junior high (probably ages 11-14), we both attended day camp at Sarah Heinz House. Sarah Heinz was married to H.J. Heinz, who founded the Heinz Corporation. Yeah, that Heinz, as in the condiment factory. Heinz was from Pittsburgh (hence Heinz Field, home of my beloved Steelers), in case you were unaware.
At any rate, it's basically a Boys & Girls Club, and during the summer they had 4 two week sessions of day camp. We attended all 4 and absolutely loved our lives. The weeks ran Monday through Thursday, and the first Thursday we would go on a field trip, the second would be some type of performance, fair, etc.
So we had 4 field trips (roller rinks, bowling, picnics) and 4 variety-type shows. These varied from carnivals to talent shows to...yup, you guessed it, a circus. Our families were invited to these performances so that they could see what we did during our days.
In the week prior to the performance, we would split into groups with different counselors and meet every day or every other day (details are slightly fuzzy so many years later) and figure out what we were doing for the big day. The rest of our days we were split into groups based on age and had a schedule of activities: ceramics, swimming, computers, crafts, games. The last "period" of the day we got to pick what we wanted to do.
During the group periods, we were always learning, whether it was a swimming stroke, how to play badminton, or learn fun things...such as walk on stilts.
This picture is what our stilts looked like, except that SHH's were painted bright blue and bright red. If I remember correctly, only the oldest group of students got to try to learn how to walk on the stilts, and I know I was jealous of those who were able to accomplish the feat.
It's really a question of balance, sort of like a unicycle (no, can't do that). I know that I tried and tried, struggled and struggled to learn and then, one day, voila! My turn came up, the counselor steadied the poles while I climbed on - and I could do it! I walked all the way across the parking lot/kickball field (hey, SHH is in the city. Us city kids can play on concrete, no prob!) and back.
I surprised the heck out of me, and out of everyone else in my group! I was one of the few who was able to master the skill and was forever envied and abused for my stilt-walking talents.
Now, before you're too impressed with me, take a peek at the picture to the left. See the sailor-like kid facing us? Look at how his arms are looped through the stilts and back around to hold the poles. Those are the skills I have.
So, despite my hidden talent, I don't think Cirque is going to be contacting me any time soon.
The other cool thing about my stilt story is that after I fell in love with stilt walking, someone in my family (can't remember who) either made or found a set of stilts made out of broomsticks and two triangular blocks of wood that they gave me. So, granted, I was no more than a foot from the ground, but it definitely upped my cool quotient in the neighborhood when I received my very own set of stilts.
Fortunately, the next time someone asks me about any talents that I have that would be beneficial in a circus...I don't have to panic or have cold sweats. I can calmly respond and impress the asker!