It was rainy that day. Cold drizzle fell from an indifferent sky onto sour faces attached to sagging shoulders. I walked through the parking lot to the door to my office building already dreaming about my mid-morning break. The thought of an over-sweet snack from the vending machine was still dancing a jig in my skull when I entered the lobby and was greeted by the first clown. He was my height but with his baggy suit was twice as wide. His meaty hands deftly tied off a balloon animal and handed it to me.
“Uh . . . thanks . . . for the dog,” I stammered.
“It’s not a dog silly. It’s a capybara.”
“The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, it’s indigenous to the Amazon rain forest.”
“Ok. Well, thank you.” I started to walk away and then turned back but he was gone. I looked down at the balloon in my hand and it exploded into a mist of confetti.
“What the hell?” I mumbled, shaking my head. Only on a Tuesday I thought.
I walked down a corridor toward my desk, sneaking glances into cubicles along the way. In each, instead of my usual co-workers, I found a clown. Some were tall, others were squat. Some had red hair, others green or blue. Red ball noses bulged from the middle of their faces as they sat in $700 office chairs making balloon animals and beeping annoying horns.
The trip to my corner of cube farm hell left me shaken. Where were all of my fellow office drones pouring bitter coffee into their bodies to jumpstart another day of blankly staring at a computer screen? Why were there clowns everywhere? And why did my capybara explode? I had a place on my shelf all picked out for it.
I dropped into my seat. A tall, thick clown with multi-colored hair appeared at my shoulder.
“Hey there! Do you have your project report completed?” he said in a shrill sing-song voice. Then he tooted his horn twice with a belly laugh that shook the wall of my cubicle. I saw he had a name tag over his heart. Scrawled in black Sharpie was “Mr. Flippo, manager”.
“Uh,” I started, both fearful and confused. “I have . . . a little more work to do on it.”
“Get it done mister!” Toot! Toot! Then he walked away, his over-sized shows knocking down a plant in the corner.
At 10:15 balloons dropped from the ceiling while calliope music blared over the loudspeaker throughout the building.
Noon brought the “parade of clowns” through the office where I was given the nickname “Frowny” and a balloon gazelle to replace my lost capybara.
I tried to work but the infernal horn tooting and singing “Happy Birthday” to everyone who called on the phone were driving me mad. The break room was chaos with battling games of pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs. I went to the men’s room to find make-up smeared paper towels lying everywhere. When I got back to my desk someone had left a red rubber nose on my computer keyboard. As the afternoon wore on I felt eyes upon me. They were trying to draw me in, to make me one of them. Usually I stayed late to catch up on emails I hadn’t had time to answer but on this night I actually snuck out early with one last horn blast from Mr. Flippo.
I walked briskly to my car needing to be away from work as quickly as possible. The indoctrination, however, wasn’t over. My Honda CR-V had been painted a miasma of psychedelic colors. There was a squirting flower stuck to the top of the antenna and an over-sized bow tie attached to the car’s grill. I pulled a note from under the windshield wipers. It told me I was driving car pool tomorrow morning and included a list of 27 co-workers I needed to pick up on the way.
I got into my car, banging the steering wheel in frustration. When I looked at myself in the rear-view mirror I cried out. My face was covered in white make-up.
I’m becoming one of them.