True Story©… The Cure for Coulrophobia
It is verifiable that I tend to mean well, even when the outcomes end up being quite fucky.
Did y’all know that one in ten adults and ten in every thousand children – mostly girls – are afraid of clowns? In my life, I have known two people who fell into one of those numbers. One of said people is someone I speak to regularly and the other one that I have legitimately not seen or heard from in over 25 years. It is quite possible she is in prison for de-lifing a clown. Whatever.
In the challenge of people who are afraid of clowns existing, I saw an opportunity. No, this would not be an opportunity to turn a profit on some kind of snake oil sales scheme. Matter fact, I’mma do this with my own name and not Moe, because I want some of the damn accolades sometimes. This is a chance to be a real hero, help some people out if you will.
I placed ads on
Craigslist and BookFace local group explaining that I would be offering a
service giving people who fear clowns the tools they need to get over their
fears in one afternoon group session.
The thing is that I would not be able to go forward with the
session until securing at least 15 participants at a low-low cost of only forty
Reponses to the ads were slow at first, mostly people feeling out just what it was I would do to help them in their journey from this phobia. Frankly, it felt more like they were trying to ape my idea, so I played coy with the responses so as to not let on to what I had planned. If they wanted the inside scoop, then they would have to sign up and have the requisite not-unreasonable $40 ready to learn it.
One week passed,
then two. Three weeks in, I finally had
my numbers up to be able to go forward, and not a moment too soon for reasons
you will soon see.
I had made a form for everyone to fill out; signed releases that they were willing participants in my “program,” and that they could leave anytime they so choose, but no refunds could be provided, as this whole service was not being run at a profit or even as a business with all funds are to be spent in the way of completing the mission. Of the fifteen participants chosen for round one of the
experiment program, twelve were
adults and three were children. Not
surprisingly, each of the children were the progeny of adults taking advantage
of my services.
So it’s April 1th,
I make sure that everyone is to be ready for me to come and pick them up
promptly between 5:30 and 6pm for punctual arrival.
"Arrival,” you ask?
With Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey having languished right on the edge of ruin trying to regroup their approach to circus’ing without animals, several smaller travelling circuses are crossing the country and setting up in mall parking lots left mostly empty by everyone buying everything online during Covid. Part of me wishes I had looked earlier and a little more attentively, or I might have put this off because the above-mentioned Ringling Brothers Circus announced a relaunch and ALWAYS come through Greensboro in February. Anyway, in my assumption that the “big” circus was dead in the water, I used roughly half of everyone’s $40 and bought a ticket to Cirque Italia for this day. With $78, I rented a large van to transport them all and spent the rest on gas and incidentals.
So as we’re approaching the mall and the big ass tent is on the back lot, visible from the highway, the now-captive passengers in the rented van started to get uneasy.
Person 1: “Wait, where are we going?”
Me: “Relax… it is a part of the program.”
Person 2: “Yeah, but where are we going?”
Me: “’Going?’ We’re here!”
Person 1: “Yes, but where is ‘here’?”
Person 3: “Is this some kind of sick April Fool’s joke”
Me: “No, it’s not a j--…”
Person 1: “You sick FUCK, it is April 1rd, did my wife put you up to this!?
Me: “You contacted me, not your wife.”
Person 4: “So why would you bring us, a group of people afraid of clowns, to a circus!?”
Me: “Well when I was young and didn’t know how to swim, my uncles pushed the issue by basically just shoving me in the pool and--…”
Person 1: “OH MY GOD!!!”
Me: “and my motivation to not drown basically learned me into be a strong swimmer inside of just one summer.”
Person 5: “And you charged us MONEY to be traumatized in that manner?”
Me: “Verily. But in all fairness, as I explained on the forms you all signed, I am not MAKING any money on this.”
With that, I
parked the van and beckoned everyone in to come on into the circus.
No one moved…
I advised that they could sit in the van and whimper or they could come into this tent with me and face their fears, but *I* surely intended to go inside and enjoy the next two hours of my evening. This came with a reminder of a signed no refunds decree as well. Reluctantly, everyone rallied each other and got out of the van.
So it worked,
right? We all good… Everyone went in and got their popcorn and
enjoyed the show, right?
Shit lasted about
twelve minutes. The ringmaster opened
the show with a song and the stars paraded through the rings and then around
the edge of the crowd. As is the case
with these things, the clowns seek out children to spread a little attention
and happiness to and THAT is where the whole shit went sideways.
Three children in my group, remember? The adults were largely adults about it if only a little squeamish, but when that clown approached the little girl with a balloon, she FREAKED THE WHOLE FUCK OUT and this set off everyone else in my charge. Naturally, this pushed people around us – ostensibly NOT afraid of clowns – into what to them had to be some kind of inference that there was a riot happening.
Needless to say, that naturally means that there was soon a riot happening.
Man sets his own
fear aside to defend his child from the clown who literally meant her zero
harm, more clowns join the fray to support their colleague, other people in the
group help out against the clowns, now other non-clown performers are in the
fight and I am easing ever so slowly toward the exit.
Security gets involved and starts snatching people up and corralling them to the exit. I yell “meet me back at the van” to everyone and no one in particular. It would be almost an hour before I had the whole of my charge back in the van for me to return to their homes.
On the ride back,
the van was SILENT. No crying children,
no crying adults, not a single “fuck you” for what still to some had to feel
like an April Fool’s joke gone horribly off the rails.
And I’ll be damned if I INVITE the awkward acknowledgement into the already-thick air of already-awkward silence.
After the last
individuals were off of the van, I noticed it was still early yet and decided
to go on and return the van to the rental place early instead of having to get
up and do it on Sunday morning.
In the 16 minute drive from the last house to the airport, my phone was exploding with one tag and DOZENS of comments on the post before I could even get stationary. I was being called a “fraud” and a “scammer,” of having no regards for the feelings or funds of people in the community. I was, apparently, the scum of the earth.
Once back to my own wheels, I responded before pulling off to drive home.
“I resent being referred to as some kind of a fraud or a scammer. Anyone who has done even the most perfunctory Google search on how to deal with a fear of something that is largely mundane and usually harmless will tell you that the most useful method is simply FACING it to learn just how mundane and harmless it actually is. To the OP: sir, I watched you CRY at the thought of even entering a circus before we even got into the parking lot. Once inside, you not only manned up and defended your daughter from a fear (that you had unfairly instilled in her) by FIGHTING a clown, but you survived the fight to talk about it. If that isn’t ‘facing a fear’ then I don’t know what is. Now you can go to your daughter and tell her with real evidence that the clown you beat up – and any others you may one day have to beat up – aren’t shit to fear! To that ends, I say I did exactly what I set out to do!”
The comment thread went DEAD from there, with the exception of one person who posted a meme under my comment…
They say the road
to hell is paved with good intentions.
No one told me that there would be riots and uproarious laughter along with those good intentions.
I really SHOULD have used Moe Phillips for this one.