"Creating family traditions, one family at a time." That is the mission of Great Wolf Lodge. And this is a story of a recent opportunity I had to work alongside our Ambassadors of Fun at the Pocono Mountains Lodge to make that mission come true via a pallette of face paint in our Grand Lobby.
I’d like to preface this story with the facts: I prepared myself for this. I studied face painting. I practiced face painting. I allowed another person to paint my face into a wolf and I wore a brightly colored shirt to help make myself look fun. I bought the really nice supplies. And most importantly, I prepared my little marketing script, “Hi, welcome to Great Wolf Lodge! What can I paint for you today? Would you like a paw or a wolf?” Readers, you should know that I was destined for success.
Until the first kid – the VERY FIRST KID – in line stared back at me and said “I want my face to look like an exploding volcano.”
It was approximately right THERE that the line was drawn between education and experience. I practically had a whole college degree in my pocket for face painting and there I was, unprepared for an exploding volcano.
Next kid: I want a piranha. Me: Suuuure, like you want me to paint a piranha on your cheek? [big cheesy smile] Kid: NO, I want my whole face to look like I’m a piranha. [Very seriously] I want to BE a piranha. Me: [blank stare].
Clearly at this point, I was in trouble. I could have spent the rest of the day explaining to these kids why their choices were not quite “on brand” or how volcanoes and piranhas were not really icons of safety (especially near a waterpark). But instead, I sat there, lamely, staring back at them wondering “Is this what happens to every corporate employee that tries – with every good intention – to re-insert themselves into the front lines, on the floor of their brand?!”
Someone randomly snaps a photo of my impending failure and I become alert. I realize at that moment that my job is not to deliver a “perfect” scenario found on paper; my duty is to deliver happiness. Memories. An experience. My duty is to turn this kid into a piranha!
My paint brush flies into some yellow, followed by green an orange. I smear some white around. I make something that looks like fins on his cheeks. Giant lips. Sharp teeth. I ask him to growl a little (piranhas seem mean enough to make that sound). Bam. This kid is a full-fledged fish face!
I muster all of the confidence I can and flash another one of my award-winning smiles before handing him the mirror to check my work. Although I wouldn’t have minded him seeming really excited about my artwork, I’m pretty thrilled that he doesn’t pout, cry or run to mom after seeing what I just did to his face. Relief.
My bonus of joy came later that night as I was daring myself down the ultimate collection of indoor waterpark slides: The Double-Barrel Drop™, River Canyon Run™ and Hydro Plunge™. As I was circling back around to the stairs for another ride, wouldn’t you guess it – four hours later – here comes my piranha around the corner! With every opportunity to wash his face off, he has somehow succeeded in protecting his face paint for hours – he liked it!
And suddenly I’m able to enjoy the rest of the evening in a new way, knowing that I’ve actually done the only thing I’ve ever been asked to do: make time for our guests, just one family at a time.