The Power of The Clown
It started innocently.
Many years ago I worked in an office with large windows facing a busy overpass. I was standing by one of those windows one day when a woman in a passing car looked up and made eye contact. Naturally, I waved.
A chuckle escaped my lips as she turned and tried to identify me. It was the beginning of a year of window antics. When things were slow, I would stand in the window and wave at the passengers who looked up. The strange looks made me laugh and stress was washed away.
Co-workers began to take an interest. They would stand from view, watch the reactions I received, and laugh along.
Late afternoon was the best time – rush hour traffic filled the overpass with cars and transit buses, and providing lots of waving material for the end-of-day routine. It didn’t take long to attract a following – a group of commuters who passed the window every day and looked up at the strange waving man. There was a man with a construction truck who would turn on his flashing-yellow light and return my wave, the carpool crowd, and the business lady with her children fresh from day care. But my favorite was the transit bus from the docks that passed my window at 4:40pm. It carried the same group every day, and they became by biggest fans.
After a while, waving became boring, so I devised ways to enhance my act. I made signs: “Hi,” “Hello,” “Be Happy!” and posted them in the window and waved. I stood on the window ledge in various poses, created hats from paper and file-folders, made faces, played peek-a-boo by bouncing up from below the window ledge, stuck out my tongue, tossed paper planes in the air, and once went into the walkway over the street and danced while co-workers pointed to let my fans know I was there.
Christmas approached, and job cuts were announced. Several co-workers would lose their jobs, and everyone was feeling low. Stress in the office reached a high. A miracle was needed to repair the damage caused by the announcements.
While working a night shift, a red lab jacket attracted my attention. I picked it up and turned it in my hands. In a back corner where packing material was kept, I used my imagination and cut thin, white sheets of cloth-like foam into strips and taped them around the cuffs and collar, down the front, and around the hem. A box of foam packing and strips of tape became Santa’s beard and when taped to the hat, slipped over my head in one piece.
The next working day I hid from my co-workers, slipped into the costume, walked bravely to my desk, sat down, held my belly, and mocked Santa’s chuckle, as they gathered around me laughing. It was the first time I had seen them smile in weeks. Later my supervisor walked through the door. He took three steps, looked up, saw me, paused, shook his head, turned and left.
I feared trouble. The phone on the desk rung a few moments later, “Mike, can you come to my office please?” I shuffled down the hall, the foam beard swishing across my chest with each step.
“Come in!” the muffled voice replied to my knock. I entered, and sat down. The foam on the beard creaked, and he looked away from me. A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead, the only sound was the hammering of my heart. “Mike…” This was all he managed before he lost his composure, leaned back in his chair, and bellowed with laughter. He held his stomach, and tears formed in his eyes, as I sat silent and confused. When he regained control he said, “Mike, thanks! With the job cuts it has been hard to enjoy the Christmas season. Thanks for the laugh, I needed it.”
That evening, and every evening of the Christmas season, I stood proudly in the window and waved to my fans. The bus crowd waved wildly, and the little children smiled at the strange Santa. My heart was full of the season, and for a few minutes each day we could forget the loss of jobs.
I didn’t know it then, but a bond was forming between my fans and me. It wasn’t until the spring following the Santa act that I discovered how close we had become.
My wife and I were expecting our first child that spring, and I wanted the world to know. Less than a month before the birth I posted a sign in the window, “25 DAYS UNTIL B DAY.” My fans passed and shrugged their shoulders. The next day the sign read, “24 DAYS UNTIL B DAY.” Each day the number dropped, and the passing people grew more confused.
One day a sign appeared in the bus, “What is B DAY?” I just waved and smiled.
Ten days before the expected date the sign in the window read, “10 DAYS UNTIL BA– DAY.” Still the people wondered. The next day it read, “9 DAYS UNTIL BAB- DAY,” then “8 DAYS UNTIL BABY DAY,” and my fans finally knew what was happening.
By then, my following had grown to include twenty or thirty different busses and cars. Every night they watched to see if my wife had given birth. Excitement grew as the number decreased. My fans were disappointed when the count reached “zero” without an announcement. The next day the sign read, “BABY DAY 1 DAY LATE,” and I pretended to pull out my hair.
Each day the number changed and the interest from passing cars grew. When my wife was fourteen days overdue she went into labor, and the next morning our daughter was born. I left the hospital at 5:30am, screamed my joy into the still morning air and drove home to sleep. I got up at noon, showered, bought cigars, and appeared at my window in time for my fans. My co-workers were ready with a banner posted in the window:
“IT’S A GIRL!”
I wasn’t alone that night. My co-workers joined me in celebration. We stood and waved our cigars in the air as every vehicle which passed acknowledged the birth of my daughter. Finally, the bus from the docks made its turn onto the overpass and began to climb the hill. When it drew close, I climbed onto the window ledge and clasped my hands over my head in a victory pose. The bus was directly in front of me when it stopped dead in heavy traffic, and every person on board stood with their hands in the air.
Emotion choked my breathing as I watched the display of celebration for my new daughter. Then it happened: a sign popped up. It filled the windows and stretched half the length of the bus, “CONGRATULATIONS!”
Tears formed in the corners of my eyes as the bus slowly resumed its journey. I stood in silence, as it pulled from view. More fans passed and tooted their horns or flashed their lights to display their happiness, but I hardly noticed them, as I pondered what had just happened.
My daughter had been born fourteen days late. Those people must have carried the sign, unrolled, on the bus for at least two weeks. Everyday they had unrolled it and then rolled it back up.
We all have a clown inside of us. We need to let it free and not be surprised at the magic it can create. For eight months I had made a fool of myself, and those people must have enjoyed the smiles I gave them, because on the happiest day of my life they had shown their appreciation.
It has been more than 18 years since that special time, but on my daughter’s birthday I always remember the special gift they gave me.
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