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Just Clowning Around

Posted by crowbiz on May 20, 2009

 

Also available in teal, orange and mauve

Also available in teal, orange and mauve

Before beginning this story, you might want to find a huge rubber bicycle horn and slip into some size 30 shoes.

 

Years ago (isn’t everything?  Nothing kooky ever happens to me anymore), I had a college job in an office on campus.  It was the perfect antecedent to “The Office” staffed by middle-aged, middle-American, middle-hair-parted civil servants, and a couple wise-ass college kids like me and my dear friend who I met there.  We saw no end to the entertainment available by just observing the daily drudgery and goings-on while fulfilling our duties, which we did far better than the time-wasting, Xerox-jamming state-issued “servants” (Later, I was asked by our new director if I’d please consider staying and taking a permanent position in the office. As if remembering too late that I was headed into grad school, he looked embarrassed and answered himself with, “No, I guess you have other things going on.”  I thanked him anyway.)

While I could fill a few Oxford Dictionary-sized volumes with episodes and character portraits from this three or four year period, I’d like to focus attention on one amusing, if disturbing aspect of the office atmosphere.  In our employ were not one, but two men moonlighting as “professional” clowns.  It was never clear if this was just a statistically improbable and horrible coincidence or if the two jokers somehow got into the scene together;  I do know they worked separate gigs, which could be a facet in the Code of Clown Conduct or some other secret clown tome that we straights are not meant to know.

One of these men was a very sweet, corny older fellow and deserves no abuse.  I think.

The other (cue the minor chord), was the polyester-clad spokesman for middle-age lechery and general asshattery.  Not only did everyone have to endure his wince-inducing bad puns and stabs at humor, but his leering, roving, watering eyes as they unabashedly played over any female form within range in the large open office.  Said eyes were stationed behind smudged glasses with thick dark plastic frames.  Do I even need to mention he was mostly bald, save for a few friar-style strands, had a big 70s stashe and topped out at about 5’3″?  Even without the unwelcome humor and harassing looks, he was a tool.

 

That endless hankie gag is hot!

That endless hankie gag is hot!

Sit down now, because I’m going to lay on some serious information.  Did you know that clowns have to “take” their professional name?  You don’t just go calling yourself BoBo or Twinkles and start the show – you somehow (again, secret clown code) apply for and “become” your Clown Alter Ego.  This probably works something like a DBA, with the additional step of a clandestine ritual involving a spritzer bottle and a rubber chicken.  I wish I could say this was a joke, but there is a clown who occasionally visits my kids’ school named PeePee.  I guess PooPoo, CaaCaa and WeeWee must have been taken.  For your enjoyment is the Clown Name Generator, which deemed me “Perky van Wannino.”  I’m not displeased.  Go ahead, get your clown name, but don’t go buzzing it all over town, or the real clown posse, 29 of them in one Smart Car, will come and deal with your kneecaps with a rubber bat.  

 

The antihero of this story was…………   Ding-a-Ling.  Yep, he had the business cards and stationary to prove it.  We know the depth of it because my friend and I used to raid his files when we’d “work” later than everyone else.  Clown correspondence, notes on good and bad gigs, good props for different age groups, etc, and a troubling series of letters about not using the Giant Comb trick with kids, as it once led to a lice epidemic.  Boo, Ding-a-Ling, booo!  

(Raided his files! you gasp.  State property!  I reply)

Now then, if you were in Ding-a-Ling’s huge shoes, and you worked with 24 overweight older ladies and two zippy little college gals, where might you direct your sexual energy in the workplace?  Without going into the years-long build-up, let’s jump to the season when D-a-L curiously turned up the flame and started cornering my friend and me whenever possible, sometimes physically, and always with a sexual mal mot of the corniest order.  Sample:  if we coughed or cleared our throat, he’d imply that we’d caught a cold from too much XXX-ing in the back seat of the car at night with our beaux.  He’d waltz into the mailroom and ask if he’d be needed to perform a hickey check.   Gave neck and back massages whenever he could justify getting behind one of us. Innocently questioned how much of something might fit into our mouth.  Suggested my friend’s aching back was due to her (clumsily described) front.  Yes, we call this sexual harassment, but it was so hokey as to first inspire more disbelief than outrage.

My friend, a self-confident young woman with little tolerance for bullshit, politely and firmly told D-a-L to stop the comments and behavior.  Alas, it only fueled his fire and the stakes were raised;  he came out full-force, with virtual pancake makeup, rubber nose and armed with his squirting boutonniere of perversion.  For being confronted, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not mad, I’ll just get even.”  And lo, the antics worsened, deepened, got meaner.  My last straw came when, in clear view of many coworkers, Ding pinned me to a filing cabinet, bum-to-bum, and started doing the twist against me…er, my back…uh, side. 

Later that same day, my friend and I marched into our old director’s office to complain.  That this man was himself only a few atoms of restraint less lecherous than D-a-L was not encouraging, but as director, it was his mission to officially do something.  Something ended up as having to put Ding on file with Human Resources and to issue a stern, private “talking to.”  Certainly, their talk amounted to a comparative analysis of my friend’s and my breasts, but at least we’d done our bit.

Wooo boy, was old Ding-a-Ling pissed!  You see, this was the 80s, and sexual harassment was a fairly new concept even to sensitive people, much less archaic deviants like Ding, who likely thought that a good slap on the ass was a useful way to both encourage your “girl” to file faster and keep her spirits up.  He made a big point of glowering at us whenever possible and avoided having any of his work pass through our hands.  His most eye-roll-worthy tactic was a slapstick 3-foot leap out of our path every time we would pass in the hallway, mailroom or file area.  Hey, a clown’s gotta be a clown; the weekend is never enough.  Without the grease paint and spotlight, it was getting harder and harder (no pun intended) to call attention to himself, until one day I witheringly asked without bothering to look up, “How would your wife feel about this?”  I can’t recall anything about Ding from that moment on.

Flash forward to a couple semesters ago when I was teaching Abnormal Psychology.  While discussing phobias, someone offered loudly, “clowns!”, and I simply had to synopsize the Ding-a-Ling travesty.  The class was veritably rolling, and many a teary eye was wiped before we settled down.  I ended up using it as an extra credit question:

In a personal story related by Dr. Wannemacher, what was the name of the “professional clown” coworker implicated in the sexual harassment case?  a)  Spanky  b) Humpty-Dumpty  c) Ding-a-Ling  d) Wee Willie Winkie  e) Gropo  f) Noodles

Almost everyone got it right, except for that slacker in the back row.

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One Response to “Just Clowning Around”

  1. dr_wisz said

    “…general asshattery” I like it.

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