Monday, November 1, 2010

This joker is no joke

I am 32 and afraid of clowns. I’m actually afraid of anyone in a mask or face paint, but clowns are the worst, particularly evil ones. I thought I was getting better about being around them, but this weekend my fear got worse and I may have made a total fool of myself in public. I was sitting with my back to the door in a really good Thai restaurant just outside of DC when my husband, Alex’s, eyes got wide and he said “Oh, that’s not going to make you happy.”

I turned around to see the ghost of Heath Ledger, circa Batman, The Dark Knight. This joker was no joke. A very authentic version was walking in the door and my world went into slow motion. “Oh, f%*&,” I said out loud. The evening was going so well. I had actually forgotten that it was the night before Halloween, my least favorite holiday. I turned around, looked at Alex and said, “We need to get the check NOW.” I started working out the logistics in my head of how we were going to get out of the restaurant while simultaneously putting as much distance as possible between me and the clown. See, when there’s a clown in the same room as me, I can’t relax. I need to know where that clown is in relation to me at all times. I tried to remain calm, and kept telling myself to “show no fear.” As soon as a clown smells fear, that’s when they pull out their bag of tricks.

The joker surveyed the room when he walked in. There were empty tables all around us, and I was panicking. Fortunately, the waitress asked if a table near the wall on the other side of the room would do. With quick hand motions, he said in a gravelly voice, “That’ll be fine.” Then he flipped the chair around and straddled it. Resting his arms across the back of the chair, he waved at the restaurant patrons and said “Hello everyone” in that low, steady voice that Heath Ledger cultivated and mastered so well that it even freaked him out. That seemed to be the extent of his antics, but I couldn’t be sure. I really wanted to get a picture of him, but I couldn’t risk drawing any attention to myself.

Then he stood up. I really needed for him to find a seat and sit down. My worst fear was that he was going to need to use the restroom. To do that, he would need to walk right by me. I couldn’t handle his long purple overcoat swinging by me when he walked or his sudden movements. I imagined him sitting down next to me and getting really close to my face, continuously wetting his lips and then saying “So . . . How’s the food?” This guy was good. He had the persona down – the movements, the voice, the makeup, the hair, and the outfit.

As it turned out, he just wanted to go outside for a smoke, delaying our plans to leave. “Let’s sit for a few minutes,” I said. “Whatever makes you more comfortable, love,” Alex said, smirking. So we sat and waited. Alex chuckled every once in a while as he caught sight of the joker pacing outside in his long purple overcoat, with a cigarette hanging out of his red crooked perpetual smile.

When he took off his coat back in the restaurant, flapped it out and then hung it over the back of the chair and then slowly removed his purple leather gloves, I got chills. Once he took his seat, I looked at Alex and said “OK, we need to go now.” While the clown was looking at the menu, I made a dash for the door and waited in the parking lot for Alex.

I thought I kept my cool and was proud of myself for handling the situation well, but according to Alex, I didn’t.

“I’m surprised he didn’t bother me in there. Clowns always single me out,” I said.

“Generally, if someone dressed up like that thinks you’re going to flip shit on them, which was exactly the vibe you were giving off, then they’re not going to bother you."