Bogleech.com's 2016 Horror Write-off:
Hidden Camera Show
I realize I'm being set up when the pretty girl tells me we're running late for the banquet and asks me if I'm okay with not labeling the shellfish. One, that's a huge safety violation. No real employee at a huge event like this would dream of putting their rich customers in danger of an allergic reaction. Legally, they'd get skinned alive. Two, once the idea is in my head the girl starts looking more and more like an actress I've seen reused a couple times on one of those hidden-camera psychology shows. You know, the ones where they see if your average Joe off the street will lend his shoes to a poor single father for a job interview, or intervene with a kidnapping at the park. That kinda stuff.
"How many people are actually allergic to this stuff anyway?" she says. "We can label all these dishes and keep the boss waiting, or we can be on time. Tell me I'm not crazy to want to skip doing it."
I'm starting to see the experiment taking shape. Will I, the average Joe, cut corners on my volunteer work under the threat of an angry boss and the charm of their actress?
May as well. Honestly, I've always been fascinated by how these shows work, and if I stand up to her now I won't get to see how the rest of the scene plays out. I tell her she's not crazy.
I tell her she's not crazy again when she wants to pickpocket one of the stuffed-shirt douchebag customers. The actor, a bald guy I'm pretty sure I saw as a racist store manager in another episode, turns a convenient blind eye while I snatch his wallet. I know it's all fake, but my accomplice's laughter as we duck into a hallway with our prize makes me feel like I'm really a brilliant career criminal for one night. Like I'm really getting away with something. Bits of the episodes I saw her in float to the top of my mind. A flustered diner employee being yelled at by her boss for simple mistakes. Half of a lesbian couple being berated by a bigot at a wedding store. Always cute, approachable sympathy bait. What other crimes could she pressure me, the hapless law-fearing citizen, to join her in?
I get my answer when the bald jerk corners us, mouth full of appetizers, spluttering about his wallet. Will I turn it over? No, I stand in front of the girl from TV and bravely say I don't know what he's talking about. The script must be nearing its end. I hope the conspicuous ceiling cameras get a good view of my dramatic turn as the chivalrous pickpocket.
The grand finale: the return of the unlabeled shellfish. Just as he's telling us how we'll go to jail if we don't hand over the wallet, bald guy chokes, clutches at his throat, falls to his knees. He fumbles in his jacket pocket and an Epi-Pen clatters to the floor.
The beautiful actress stares at me with huge, terrified brown eyes. She's thinking the same thing as me: there's only one witness to our adventures of thievery, as well as the existence of any traces of shellfish in the banquet.
She whispers: "Maybe-maybe he had an accident. Choked on the food."
I understand. I pocket the Epi-Pen, drop my face into my hands in shame for the cameras until I hear the actor on the floor stop moving. End scene.
She starts crying, muffled horrified sobs. Slowly, I raise my head, glance around at those huge cameras, look to the doorways for the personable British host coming out to chat with me about peer pressure, letting me hug the actors and learn their real names.
He never comes. Laughter rises in my chest, and suddenly my eyes are full of tears, too, and I'm shaking with hysterical giggles. I'm laughing because the TV angel had blue eyes, not brown, and because damn near every building has cameras in the ceiling, and because the rich guy is still lying there on the ground purple and swollen in the face, and it seems unlikely I'll be able to stop anytime soon.