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.

6 Replies to “Clowns”

  1. As a little kid I had a recurring dream of opening a door and a clown face/mask appeared and ripped off that face to show another and then another and another and another. Now I think that was a prescient dream revealing the true nature of my mom. But, though that dream was a nightmare, I have never been afraid of clowns. I have always been challenged to find the true nature of reality… I think observing daily life as a cultural anthropologist would be very strange, interesting…

    1. You learn to shut it down or people feel that you are always studying them…but I’ve found that the in many situations you can’t really shut it down the camera is still taking pics, and the recorder is still working. Working on the applied side is easier…no journal article to prepare for Current Anthropology or American Anthropologist…shesssh!

      1. I kind of get that. When I tell someone I was an English teacher they shut down fearing I’m going to correct their grammar. It’s amazing since I honestly DON’T care and never did. People can fix their grammar. 🤣

      2. I know but I still don’t care. The whole point of linguistic conventions is to end up with something others can understand. Who those others are depends on who one’s audience is. My primary audience responded well to “dude.”

        When I was teaching ESL there was a battle line between linguists and people like me who were, in the opinion of the linguists, “untrained.” In a way, language is “us vs. them” no matter what. 🤣

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