Like most people, I've decided to pick up the odd job here and there to help make ends meet. Besides, you never know when you're going to get some interesting inspiration for a book. Most recently, I picked up the job of official celebrity handler. I don't want to call it an "assistant" job because it makes it sound more permanent than it is. As a handler, it is my responsibility to make sure that the celebrity gets from point A to point B on time with relative ease and no problems. I handle crowds, questions, and generally make sure that the celebrity has whatever he or she might need while in my custody.
When I got my first assignment, I was worried that I would be in for a rough day as he had the potential to be really, really high maintenance. He's sent whole armies of men to quaking in their boots, but I dove in, hopeful that a simple sightseeing trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden wouldn't be too difficult.
Upon picking up Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, I discovered that he had also decided to bring along one of his favored Clone Troopers as company. Unfortunately, the poor man had been called in on his day off and his work suit was at the cleaners. But he managed. I also discovered very quickly that Lord Vader didn't want to carry anything, preferring to keep his hands empty so my pockets were quickly loaded up with his wallet, camera, and lightsaber, which hung off a belt loop on my jeans.
Another job I quickly discovered was assuring there were no wardrobe malfunctions. I'm not accustomed to traveling with someone who wears a long cape, but it does offer some interesting complications. I held the hem as we rode up the escalator as well as spent most of my time walking behind him to make sure that no one stepped on it, like his Clone Trooper. He didn't seem to mind that it got a bit dirty at the zoo, as he informed me that the new Death Star had an excellent dry cleaner that could take care of it. He also got a nice discount since he was a genuine Sith Lord.
While I procured our tickets, the Dark Lord was kind enough to stand for some pictures and meet with some of the locals at the zoo. While not quite like the Ewoks he was more familiar with, he found that he could talk to the local peoples with ease. Though, there were more than a few that were wary of him. I think it was his size and maybe also the breathing apparatus. We found out that he was wildly popular upon arriving at the zoo as a line formed outside the entrance as fan waited to have their pictures taken with the Sith Lord. He took it all in stride so long as his Clone Trooper remained close at hand at all times. This was actually the easier part of my job as the crowds were relaxed and respectful, taking turns to meet him. He shook hands, gave high-fives, and poised for pictures with the grace you would expect from a Dark Lord.
What I wasn't expecting was to run into other Storm Troopers, Clone Troopers, and even the occasional bounty hunter, most of whom seemed to be a member of the Fett family. It seems that Darth Vader has launched an intensive search for a pair of droids. His soldiers and bounty hunters checked in on a regular basis throughout the day, but it appears that no one had seen the droid he was looking for. I didn't ask about it. I didn't want to get into the politics and I also didn't want to get saddled with looking for a pair of droids while I was trying to keep an eye on the Sith Lord. There are limitations to what I can handle.
We also encountered the occasional Jedi knight and young Yoda. I was pleased to see that since it was a Sunday and we were at the Cincinnati Zoo, the two factions had developed a "live and let live" attitude. There were a few interesting words exchanged here and there, but otherwise it was very civil and some even posed for pictures. Despite the relaxed nature of the meetings, I was glad that Lord Vader had given me his lightsaber to hold throughout the day. I didn't want to risk anyone losing a limb or life just because someone was rude enough to insult the Dark Lord on his day off. I mean, honestly, just because he's a well-known celebrity doesn't mean that we can be inconsiderate and rude to him. Besides, at this point, we had already made it around the zoo perimeter once and he hadn't force choked any one yet. And I was praying that he wouldn't, because I wasn't quite sure how I would stop him if he chose to.
Aside from meeting with his men, chatting up Jedi knights, and posing for pictures with his fan, the Dark Lord did actually get to see a few animals throughout the day. The Night Creatures exhibit was beautiful, but a bit dark for him. Apparently, his helmet keeps things quite dark and I had to physically guide him and his Clone Trooper through the exhibit. He was fond of the reptile house as well as the bears, who were munching on pumpkins. The white lions were actively roaring a greeting to the Dark Lord, but in the end, I think his favorite were the monkeys. We went through the gorilla gorge as well as past several monkey islands. He seemed quite pleased with them, allowing me to take his picture.
Also here is one final picture that I managed to snap of Lord Vader with his Clone Trooper. I think his name was Bob, but I'm not sure. He didn't talk to me much. He was more concerned with keeping the Dark Lord happy.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, saying that he planned to come back for next year's HallZOOween celebration. He also said that he'd be happy to have me as a handler for other trips to the Cincinnati area. I hope that he wasn't just saying that to be nice.