Much Ado: Let Me Guess Your Age or Weight!

Published 3:46 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

don’t mean to be a creeper, but sometimes I catch myself looking at people wondering how old and fat they are. I guess old habits die hard.

One of the first jobs I ever had was being an age and weight guesser at a theme park that straddles the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. I was a high school student on summer break and my job was to collect $3 from people for the privilege of me publicly guessing their age within two years or their weight within five pounds.

Under the blistering Carolina sun, I sat on a wooden stool in a gazebo, next to a giant scale, along with my pretty assistant who had a display cabinet full of plastic Hawaiian leis, straw hats, logo-stamped erasers and pencils, and several other token prizes, none of which was worth more than a few cents.

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Wearing industrial-weight white polyester pants, a bright blue polyester shirt, and the park-approved haircut, I would entice passersby with my loud-speaker spiel…

“Hey, everyone. Hope you’re having a great day! My name is Steve, and I want to guess your age or your weight. It’s only $3, and you might win one of those great prizes.” I would point to my assistant in her blue and white polyester mini-skirt, and she would flash a smile and wave her hands in front of the wonderful collection of colorful junk. Heads would turn in that direction, but whether they were looking at the leis or my assistant’s legs is not for me to say.

“It’s only $3 to play, and I have to guess your age within two years or your weight within five pounds.” I knew if I could get one sucker – I mean person – to play the game, others would gather and play, too. “Come on up. It’s easy and I’m not very smart, and you’ll probably win. Don’t you need a straw hat to block out the sun today?”

Guys, who had so far that day failed to win their girlfriends a stuffed bear by knocking over milk bottles with baseballs, were easy targets. They would stand among the gawkers, whispering to each other, wondering what the con was. There had to be some sort of trick. Like a 16-year-old high school student making less than minimum wage was some sort of mind reader? Or the gazebo was rigged with a hidden weight scale?

“So how does this work?” I’d be asked. From the tone of voice and eye squint, I knew he didn’t trust the system.

“It’s real easy,” I would assure him innocently. “If you want me to guess your age, I’ll write my guess on this slip of paper first. Then you tell me your age, and I’ll show you my guess. If I miss it by more than two years, you win any prize in the cabinet.” Point at my assistant, who would smile, shift her hips, and wave her hands in front of the cabinet. “Or, I’ll guess your weight, and you can step up on these scales. If my guess is off by more than five pounds, you win.”

Mmm, he’s thinking… he looks back at his girlfriend in the gathering crowd for direction. She would silently mouth back to him either “age” or “weight,” like it made a difference.


“Okay, first put your money in the jar,” I’d say and take a moment to look at his face, to fake contemplation. “I think you are…” and I would scribble my guess on the notepad and pretend to hide it in my cupped hands. “So how old are you?”


“So, oh, I guessed you were…” and I would show him my guess of “24.”

“Sorry,” I’d console. He’d scowl.

“Want to try your weight?” He’d scowl some more, like he had been cheated. “It’s just $3, and you might win a prize for your lady friend.” He’d look at his lady friend, and she would shrug.

“Just put your money in the jar, and let me see,” and I would, with showman’s flair, scan his body from head to toe. “I think you weigh 156 pounds. Let’s see if I’m right or wrong. Step up on the scale.”

Somewhat reluctantly, he would step up and the giant scale would fluctuate, finally settling on 155 for all the world to see.

“Sorry,” I’d offer, “But I got it within one pound. Maybe your lady friend would like to try.” Sometimes that would work, but usually in disgust, he’d stalk off the gazebo and disappear into the crowd.

“Who’s next? It’s only $3 to play, and you might win a prize…”

Believe me, there was no trick or con to the game. Plain and simple, if your job is to look at hundreds of people all day and guess their age and their weight, you’ll eventually get good at it.

But getting good at this job was self-defeating. The corporate aim was not to win but to get more people to play. At $3 a guess and the most valuable prize might cost a nickel, the house always wins.

Eventually, I got too good and was replaced by a newbie. I was sent to work in the candy store, like you really want a ticked off 16-year-old making fudge.

I’ve not been to a theme park in many years, but I know a couple of truths: Never play the games to win, and never eat the food made by the hands of a sulking teenager. •

Steve Wong is a freelance writer living in the peach orchards of the Carolina Foothills. If you catch him eyeballing you, suck in your gut. He can be reached at