Never upstage a clown.

2015.03.03 | Random

This evening’s Twitter hashtag game was to state reasons why you were fired from a job in two words.

My answer: Upstaged Clown. #ReasonYouWereFiredInTwoWords 

The hashtag immediately brought forth some sour memories as a college student, drudging through a small town trying to find ANY job that has even a shred of connection to the Performing Arts.  White Castle won’t do for a student trying to become a costume designer and the one shopping mall we had seemed delightfully unequipped in the fashion department to work retail.

What’s a theatre major to do?

Lo and behold, a help wanted sign shined like a water tower warning light, beckoning any one willing to work behind the counter in a cramped, tiny costume rental shop.  I thought I had finally found my golden ticket because renting costumes is costume design related, RIGHT? Right? It has to be!

Well, there were no sewing duties that involved costume creation but there were a few rips to darn. There were a lot of sniff tests to make sure the returned costumes had been dry cleaned, and then the ever present alphabetical filings of duck and Tonto costumes back into the crammed storage area kept me busy most of the day.

Oh, did I mention I was also required to perform as a Chipmunk at children’s parties while the owner of the costume shop dressed up as a clown and terrified the children she was hired to entertain?

My boss was a bitter hard woman, someone you’d least expect to have or like children much less entertain them, and I think she was a smoker. If you can picture a 40 something, gambling addict glued to a filtered cigarette as she pulls the slot machine handle down between gulps of watered down rum and coke, this was my boss.

After one week on the job, she announces a party we have to attend. While she’s closing up the shop and putting on her clown makeup, I’m pulling on a brown fake fur body suit.  Two minutes in to wearing it and I’m soaked in sweat. While she finishes the final details of her ensemble, I wait outside, Chipmunk head under my arm.

Once we’re in the car, the Chipmunk head now doing double duty on my lap as an air bag, my boss turns to me and says, “Just follow me, do what I tell you and NEVER LET THEM SEE YOUR EYES.”

The way she said it, I thought I was walking into a battlefield.  She wasn’t far off, because when we arrived, we were swarmed in the front yard by children hopped up on birthday cake and icing.

I literally spent the entire afternoon being chased by children. Every time I stopped (it’s 80+ degrees out by the way), the children would jump and try to look at me through the large screened-in eyes of the Chipmunk. Every single child there was a truth seeker, adamant about proving my existence as a human being (or overly large living cartoon character).

In the melee of trying to keep the their innocence intact, I found these children were not paying attention to the clown trying her damnedest to get their attention.

Her magic tricks were no match for a circling giant Chipmunk with a horde of children in tow.

At one point I even sat down, trying to get them to gather, because I knew she was losing her patience. I had to stand right back up again because you know what happens when you sit down in a Chipmunk costume?  You’re eye level with the Pip Squeak Inquisition, and they get digital with you, poking hard, little fingers everywhere, knocking your head around en masse.

Once she made it through her act, we left, she paid me for my time (not a part of the take), and we rode back to the costume shop in silence.

When I was dressed and  ready to leave she told me, “this just wasn’t going to work out”.

I was young and I always did my best to be a dutiful employee back then, unable to invent a quick comeback, but had I come up with one, it might have gone thusly:

What isn’t going to work out? Me sweating my ass off in an itchy, poop-colored, acrylic Chipmunk nightmare for minimum wage, or you being the saddest clown I’ve ever seen?  Don’t peg this party failure on me, Ice Queen. Given a choice, children will always choose the NOT CLOWN for entertainment. I bid you a good day.

But rather than rip her a new one, I left, head down, trying to figure out where I was going to work next. I ended up working in a university research lab with bloodhounds that smeared the walls with their feces over every inch of their kennel… every day.

The moral of all this is don’t upstage the clown if you want to stay employed.



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