There is no real good or rational reason for my fear of clowns, other than I got a little too into the book It by Stephen King and have always had a gut feeling it’d probably be best to not get too near Ronald McDonald the guy wears way too much yellow… Makes me uneasy.
There is no back story, though, I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like clowns.
A few years ago when I was living in Nuremberg it was a “thing” in the city, street performers would dress up as clowns and stand outside of the most popular cathedrals and tourist attractions in the shopping district.
One day, as I was walking out of the Starbucks on Breitegasse I was stopped in front of the tables and chairs kind of makeshift Biergarten area in front of the coffee shop to put my wallet in my back pocket and a couple of euro coins fell out of the coin pocket. Before I had time to react a well-meaning hand tapped me on the shoulder to let me know whoever it was behind me had picked up the coins and was trying to give them back. I was kind of stuck between a table and a big potted plant that was being used as the boundary marker for the table area on the street so I stood in place and turned my head to look over my shoulder.
It was busy, mid afternoon and Germans love to stare, and people watch like the rest of the world. But they’re German so they’re exceptionally very good at staring. Germans are hands down world champion stare-ers. I’d go so far as to say that to blatantly stare is to be German, and once you catch yourself blatantly staring is when you realized some of that culture just might have rubbed off on you. Just Google The German Stare it’s weird, takes a while to understand that it’s just something thing they do and they do it well kind of like the first time you realize handball or indoor cycling is a sport.
Since it was a summer midday, the streets were full of compulsive shopaholics, sun worshippers, and the patio was full of people there to stare and enjoy a little Kaffetrinken during the midtagspause before going back to work.
I had just walked out of Starbucks and dropped a coin which was perfect for the collective hive? flock? a herd of stare-ers to stare at and judge silently. If I hadn’t been busy I’d have gone Full German and judged stared at me too. When in Franconia…
Unfortunately for the good Samaritan’s just practicing a little kindness he was wearing one of those Anonymous masks, a black cloak and Hessen hat like the one Captain Jack Sparrow wears.
What happened next was beyond my control, a pure reflex I swear. The world, all the sights, sounds, and smells faded away to one focal point like when the Millenium Falcon goes into hyperdrive. I was staring into the soulless face of a clown!!!
Without thinking and in purer flight or fight reaction I raised my elbow hard and fast into the face of the abomination behind me.
The poor guy, the struggling good-hearted artist behind the mask crumpled like an empty soda can onto the ground out cold.
When I turned back around there was a sea of faces and people standing still, no longer judging nonchalantly. A minimum of three hundred people on Breitegasse in Nuremberg were now staring at me in shock and horror.
I didn’t know what to do so I awkwardly blurted out “Clown!”
The response wasn’t funny at the moment, but now I laugh. The moment I said, “Clown.” Simultaneously the crowd of faces changed to the look of “Oh. That’s okay.” Everyone went back to sipping their coffees and the street immediately went back to being full of busy people with places to go and things to do.
A couple of people came over to help me pick the clown up and see if he was okay, but even then there was a moment when 3 other strangers and I hesitated because no one wanted to touch the clown.
My other clown incident also happened in Nuremberg…
I’ve worked at a lot of bars, pubs, and restaurants in Nuremberg over the past decade sometimes as sometimes as a waiter, sometimes as the cook, most of the time as the barman and more often than I liked the circumstances would demand I switched into the role of a bouncer.
It was in those moments when work became all about getting or keeping someone out when all of a sudden I had to take on the responsibilities and role of security personnel because someone was being a danger to themselves, others or my ability to earn money that I realized maybe, I’m not quite smart enough to be afraid of backing down from a confrontation that I know I have no hope of winning.
In the near decade of dealing with drunks, crowds of drunks, stoners, and outright nutjobs at strange hours in strange places under the strangest of circumstances in Nuremberg I’ve never even considered being afraid.
I have plenty of scars and wildly inappropriate stories as a result of being so thickheaded. So when I noticed that a clown had left his tools of the trade outside of the pub I didn’t think too much of it and stepped into down a couple sneaky pints, write down my schedule on my way home from the gym and maybe have a laugh with one of the resident barflies.
As a general rule unless I go with a group to eat I’ll sit right at the bar. The service is faster, the staff constantly sees you so if you happen to be the least annoying person at the bar you tend to get food and drink a bit faster and maybe a decent conversation with whoever is behind the bar every once and a while.
The moment I stepped into the pub I could see a big scary red clown shoe poking out past the wall in the room with all of the tables. That settled it for me, I’d absolutely wait at the bar to ask to see my schedule, people I might know or like at a table be damned!
My buddy was working the floor and every time he went past the clown foot I could hear a ruckus being raised. The clown had sat down (uninvited) at a table of young ladies and started ordering rounds. Snapping, whistling, and pounding the table in a display of power as he demanded more rounds.
Eventually, the belligerent behavior got to the point that the girls wanted to leave. This hadn’t taken too long, I had finished copying my next week’s work schedule and was working on my second pint and he had ordered a minimum of five rounds for the table at this point.
In general, unless specifically invited to go out by someone the bill will be paid separately. Germans are very giving and generous, but unless you’ve been told beforehand that someone else is buying… You will be paying for each and everything you ordered.
This is when things go interesting. None of the girls knew the clown, none of the girls had ordered or even wanted the five rounds of drinks the clown had ordered in spite of protests every single time and being informed by my buddy that he would have to pay for each round. None of the girls had any interest in paying for the one drink they had ordered.
My buddy said to the clown. “I told you each and every time that you would have to pay and you said ‘yes’ every time.” The moment the clown heard this he lunged at my buddy’s leg trying to bite him anywhere below the knee.
To my shame, I saw a people-biting clown lunging at a good friend and coworker. Broke out in a cold sweat. Muttered in my buddy’s direction “You need help?” with more of an informative tone than a question.
A couple of seconds later one the other member of bar staff appeared so I shouted to no one in particular “I will pay tomorrow, I have got to go!” and bolted. The moment I was outside, away from the angry biting clown I felt better, only to hear the scuffle as the two barmen struggled to get the now enraged clown away from glass, chairs, and anything else he could put his hands on and use as a weapon.
The panic, revulsion was too much. I just left went home a coward, but a coward who didn’t have to fight a clown.
A few days later some of the customers told me about how once the clown had finally gone outside he tried to hurt himself to accuse my buddy, but too many witnesses informed the police of what really happened
According to the internet “Clourophobia is the extreme or irrational fear of clowns.” Well. Let me tell you people. The. Fear. Is. Real. The fear is real!!!
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