My Lunch With the Clowns, 2002

Cadence and Ayden, Clowning Around. January, 2012.

A Peculiar Blindness

I knew exactly where to find the vendors’ lounge at the Los Angeles County Fair. After all, we’d had a booth there for several years. Sure, we’d moved to a new building this year, but all four exhibit halls were identical, right?

Or so I thought:

Open the unmarked door next to the men’s restroom, climb the stairs, and relax in air-conditioned comfort on one of the squishy sofas, far above the raucous din of the lurching mob of fairgoers. A microwave oven provided quick warm-ups of packed lunches. By fairgrounds standards, it was a blissful place.

As soon as I reached the top of the stairs in the new building, I noticed something looked differentThis lounge lacked the two-way glass overlooking the exhibit hall. Tables pushed against the walls held lighted mirrors. In lieu of a pack of sofas, one scrawny love seat sat alone in the corner. No microwave waited to warm my frozen mac-and-cheese.

No one was there. I sat on the loveseat and nibbled on carrot sticks. Not much of a lounge this year, I thought to myself. What does management do with our vendor’s fees, anyway, if they can’t even provide a decent lounge? 

Facing the staircase, I noticed the shocking-orange hair as its owner climbed the stairs. I’d heard the door close downstairs, heard voices in the stairwell–and now, two clowns came into view as they entered the room. They glanced at me, started, then smiled as they sat down at the tables and began wiping their faces with makeup remover. The truth finally caught up with me:

This room wasn’t a mediocre vendors’ lounge. It was a fine dressing room for the fair clowns. And I’d crashed it. My cheeks flushed. My insides cringed as I realized that I was intruding.

How had I made such an embarrassing mistake? I was so sure I knew where I was, so flat-out positive that everything was just as I expected it to be, that I couldn’t see the clear signs that I was in the wrong place. The dressing tables should have been a clue. Instead, I tuned them out like so much white noise.

And the clowns? They didn’t chase me off. No, they did the kindest thing possible, under the circumstances. After a brief nod, they ignored me completely. I gathered myself and slipped down the stairs, leaving them to their dressing room. 

I was lost, except I was certain I wasn’t lost. I was wrong, but I was sure I was right.

17  Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.
19 I am a stranger in the earth;
Do not hide Your commandments from me.
Psalm 119:17-19 (NASB)

I’m linking with Jennifer Lee today at Getting Down with Jesus for God-Bumps and God-Incidences.

And with Duane Scott at Scribing the Journey for Unwrapping His Promises.

You’ll visit, won’t you?