So lets start off with the myth that I hate clowns. I don’t hate clowns. In fact I have known some very good clowns in the past. I have no problems with clowns while they are working. Just like all things there are a few that ruin it for everyone else!!
It was about 10+ years ago. One of the three jobs I had at the time was at a costume rental/theatrical makeup supply store. Considering it was where I got all of my bodypaint the employee discount was amazing. My job was to man the theatrical make-up counter as the expert. Around Halloween there are many novice body painters and makeup artists who come in and need a little advice finding the right stuff to purchase. I love working with customers. I really do. I’m one of those people who actually feels better after working because of all the social interaction.
It was like any other day. Customers would come in, ask questions, tell a few people that they needed to get some spirit gum, fake blood or UV reactive green body paint for the costume they were trying to make. Then this large woman in her 50s walked in. She walked over to the counter where the tubs of white cream based makeup were displayed. “I will take two of the large tubs.”
There are a few types of makeup. Water based, cream based and grease based. Most of the Halloween costume makeup you get in the local grocery store is cream based. For the most part it’s easy to use and has some good staying power however it can be a pain to remove. Water based is really good for easy application and removal. Grease based is for those special jobs where you need it to be water resistant. Grease based makeup is hated by anyone who uses it because its so hard to remove, but wow does it do the job.
There is only one kind of customer who is interested in a tub of cream base and that is a clown. She started to tell me how to use all the different makeups assuming I was just some uninformed counterperson. I let her talk for a while but started to realize that she was not going to stop talking anytime soon.
“Oh I’m quite familiar with the techniques,” I said politely trying to not offend her and yet avoid the lecture on our entire selection of products.
“Oh?” she asked.
“I’m a professional body painter.” Pointing to the photo of my work on the wall the boss was happy to display for everyone to see. I had no idea how bad of a mistake this was going to be. “OH I AM A BODY PAINTER TOO!!! “ she exclaimed. Running out the door, “I will be right back I have something to show you.” she said with a new tone of exuberance somewhere between a newly hired flight attendant and a Jack Russell terrier who has discovered a dinosaur bone.
She returned with a makeup kit that was obviously purchased elsewhere. My boss looked up from his desk in the corner of the room and smiled an evil grin that could only mean that dealing with this woman was part of the initiation of being a fairly new employee.
The kit was a suitcase designed to open up to a work area. What was supposed to happen when the case unfolded flat was all the makeup should have had a neat spot where it was located for easy access, as well as a tool shelf with holders for each of the cleaning supplies and brushes. I had always wanted a kit like that but we did not sell them at the store. Bringing a kit like this filled with makeup and supplies purchased elsewhere was like going to a restaurant, sitting at the table and unpacking food from another restaurant. When the case unfolded, instead of the glorious array of colors followed by everything neatly arranged, brushes were falling all over the place, a few of them looked as if they had not been washed after last use or well before that. The makeup kit was a mess, too. The colors all had that muddy look you get when you mix paint directly on its source. The white looked more like a muted gray. The whole kit was a disgusting mess.
“See! Just like you. Give me your arm!” she commanded.
(Not like me. I am always cleaning my kit and I don’t do face painting at kids parties. It’s a different process.. ask a face painter they will tell you its harder to paint someone who wiggles )
“I’m going to paint a dragon on your arm” she said.
“Oh no that is all right. I’m working.” I begged.
This is when my boss said very loudly, “I’m going to the back to do some accounting. You hang out with her for a bit. I’ll be back!”
Traitor. He had already done the accounting!! The only thing in the back was the sewing room. Just out of site I could hear the muffled laughter of my boss and his wife having a good old guffaw at my predicament. There are times that I curse my customer service etiquette. This was one of them and it was really high on the list.
One of the factors when painting on adults is hair. Hair makes it almost impossible to paint a straight line. As you paint over hair it shifts location making the line look fuzzy. It also makes arm hair that was once invisible stand up on end. Not painting, or how to paint those areas is one of the first things that body painters learn.
She started to paint my arm. Painting a dragon that was not very much larger than my hand would not a have been a problem for me. In most cases, it takes me less than 5 min, 15 if I want to impress someone. Now, if you have to paint on someone’s arm its always a good idea to ask them in advance to shave the arm or pick an area where the hair is not going to be an issue. However, what she chose to do was paint directly on the hairiest part of my arm (I can’t believe I am writing a blog post about my arm hair). This was causing all kinds of problems for her. As she was painting, she was talking to me about her technique, once again acting as if I had no idea how to bodypaint. I really dislike being treated like an idiot. I would have even accepted it, if she had asked me whether or not I had seen the techniques, or at least treated me like I was an adult. This was when I tried to change the subject.
One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is that you can sour the milk by talking about something that nobody else cares about. I had used this technique a few times on dates that seemed to be going nowhere. As a geek, I have tons of material. I figured I would start with Renaissance faires and historical reenactment. YET another bad mistake.
I started by talking about how I was looking for a pattern for a 14th century Japanese Kimono ( I am part of a historical recreation society where I play the part of a Samurai ) when her son walked in. Her son was 36 and still lived with mom. Huge belly and a crumpled shirt that looked like he had been asleep in the car. “OH THOSE BASTARDS AT THE SCA” he yelled. One of my pet peeves is when people bring out their anger on someone because of something that comes up in conversation. “We got kicked out for doing balloon animals during a tournament.” he growled.
Great he inherited his social skills from his mother. (As a member of the SCA I knew that no one is allowed on the tournament field in non-historic clothing, so if they were in their clown suits, I could see why they got kicked out.)
“Were you in costume? Or wearing historical Garb?” I asked trying to find out more.
“We were dressed as clowns of course!!!” he boomed.
“Historical clowns?” I asked.
“No, but they could have made the costume out of the proper dyes and balloons could be made out of sheep intestine. Just like condoms!” he explained. This is where I realised reason had left the building; there was no talking to this person; and, as much as I was not there, he was reliving this event as if it had just happened. Time to change the subject. To anything. Quickly.
I was looking down at my arm, around the room and trying to think of anything that might change the subject to calm these two down. I looked down at this black blur that was starting to form on my arm. She said dragon right? Or was it a werewolf? Maybe it was a black unicorn with bat wings? No, no, it was a wombat with a jetpack of fire coming out its ass. Wait was that it’s head? I kept trying not to think of the germs that were now residing on my arm. This dragon painting was taking way too long. DRAGON!! There we go! Dungeons and Dragons. As a non-geek, you would want to end a conversation very quickly when a geek starts talking about that!
“This looks like a Black Dragon from the Realm of Korradan, Dungeons and Dragons game I played last week!” (I hope this works!) “That is the Devil’s game you know,” she growled. GREAT! She’s one of those!!! At least the topic will change? NOPE! While one is ranting about how he was wronged by being kicked out of an area because he was inappropriately dressed, the other was telling me how I will go to hell because I played a game.The laughter grew louder from the back room. I guess the boss came out to check on me.
Just as the dragonwolfwombat was being finished, I was about to be free. Then someone else walked into the store! A customer! The perfect excuse to end my torment. He was a short balding man with rolled up sleeves.
“Helloo, how are you? Looking for something in particular?” I asked armed with a grin.
“Sally… Jimmy,” he said coldly.
“Hello Mike,” she replied, no longer paying attention to my arm.
The son, Jimmy, looks over to me and says “Want to see a balloon animal?” he said with practiced cheerfulness.
“No, that’s ok. I need to help this gentleman,” I said politely.
“Oh that is ok. Let’s see what hes got,” Mike said as he was pulling out limp balloons and a pump contraption used to make blowing up balloons easier and faster. He was obviously another clown. Ok, first off, I had no idea clowns carry balloons in their pockets when they are not working. Second, who knew clowns were territorial.
What happened next was a balloon animal duel, and I was the unwitting and unwilling judge. Little dogs, rabbits, cats and swords were all being piled up on the counter from a latex duel that I could only hope resulted in someone's death, even if it was my own.Laughter started up again in the back! Once again, the boss came to check up on me and had to leave or lose it laughing.
“Jimmy, show him The Last Supper!!! I’ll go get more balloons!” Sally cried in a tone that reminded me of the old Mortal Kombat video game “FINISH HIM!”
I quickly grabbed their selections and moved them to the register, pushed a few buttons and yelled out loud, “THE REGISTER IS ON THE BLINK AGAIN!” The boss quickly came to the front counter, trying very hard not to smile. Being that there was only room for one person, I got out of his way and said, “I’m going to the bathroom. Do we have any bleach back there?” Not looking up from the register he said, “Hey? There is nothing wrong with the register.” He looked up to see me waving at him, smiling EAR TO EAR, knowing he would not leave the front register unattended.
The territorial battle continued, with each balloon animal proving that the creator was better than his challenger
The laughter that came from the back room this time was mine!!
I never got to see “The Last Supper” balloon sculpture. It was wise not to go back to the front room again until everyone had left.