I didn’t know that being afraid of clowns existed until a friend freaked out at work. A large package had fallen from one of the conveyor belts carrying boxes to our loading area. At the end of its ten-foot fall, it split open at my friend’s feet. Out of the package poured clown shoes, a mask, and a costume. He freaked out and ran away like a demon was pursuing him.
But being a package handler frequently meant running into people’s illicit, peculiar, and illegal interests. After a few months of doing this, you grew jaded with what people shipped or tried to ship. I was not at the hub where they found live duct-taped alligators. The cardboard box burst open, and alligators fell out. However, we were not strangers to seeing fetishes, pornography, and all manner of things.
When I became a supervisor, I had to threaten to fire a loader. He became so involved in reading a bondage magazine that he sat down on a crate and started reading aloud from the advice column.
The clown incident was just one peculiar incident in a job full of them. A regular feature of the job was the sudden rush of packages late in the shift. That was our cue for the singing and dancing. We’d go down having a good time.
It was a strange job. It came along just after the Government’s” reinvention” under President Clinton, and I was desperate for a job. As an anthropologist, I saw all kinds of things that would have drawn my attention if I had done fieldwork. But I wasn’t alone. There was another anthropologist on the night sort, and we exchanged notes but never saw each other.