Posts Tagged ‘Job History’

Running Away With The Circus

September 5, 2016

It always is

At one point, I worked for the circus. During one of my last summers off while I was in college, I looked for a job that would actually incorporate the skills I was learning in theater school. While my major was Stage Management, my love of music had led me into a Sound Design minor. My Sound Design teacher at Rutgers was a retired roadie who really knew his stuff. I had worked with audio/visual equipment in high school but I learned so much more in college. So, I joined the rest of a group of misfits hung out in the booth with an aged rock and roll expert most of the time. It was our shelter from a lot of the bureaucracy surrounding us.

What I thought I was getting into

What I thought I was getting.

When I saw an ad online for a job with the circus, I thought it was at least worth a try. The job description was to be the sound board operator and sound equipment monkey for a circus school tour. Nobody I knew had heard of the place but during the summer I was mostly left to my own devices so I filled out an application and sent in my resume. They called back and told me that instead of the job I applied for, they were offering me a job in the concession stand. They promised that if the guy who actually got the job dropped out, I would automatically have the shot at it. I doubted that would happen but a job was a job so I took it.

I had never flown here before

I packed up and boarded a plane for Burlington, Vermont. Of course, when I arrived they had lost my bag but I could not dawdle to wait for it. I had a job to get to. Appropriately, I was picked up by a guy in a pickup truck and driven way out into the wilderness in the middle of nowhere. I had arrived at the headquarters of Circus Smirkus. It was a summer program where they taught kids and young adults how to be circus performers. But I never really saw any of that. Our division started with a sort of boot camp where we learned our job and did inventory. The hardest part was learning to put up our two tents which had to get done quickly and efficiently. Oh, and to remove some suspense, my missing bag was delivered to the dirt road outside of headquarters on the third day.

Rustic VT Charm

It was nice and cool weather there among the mountains. We learned how to run all of the machines and, more importantly, we learned how to pound two-foot tent stakes into the ground with a sledgehammer. It was probably the strongest I have ever felt in my life. I carried that sledgehammer around like a badge of honor. They taught me and another coworker how to drive a forty-foot semi truck which was absolutely nerve-racking. I am glad that I never had to actually drive that truck during the course of my duties.

This is nicer than our trailer

This is actually nicer than our trailer.

I lived in a tiny bed in a trailer but I slept like the dead every night. I was so tired and sore all of the time that I simply laid my head down and passed out. Finally, we hit the road and my little trailer room was pulled from town to town. One day we would set up our tents and we would tear them down in the middle of the night the next day. Over time we got better at tearing everything down and packing it up that we eventually started finishing up around midnight. The summer became a blur of setting up, tearing down and actually serving customers.

The kids were awesome

I only ever saw the show once during a rehearsal. I actually should have been taking a nap or something instead but I was curious. The kids were great. They did acrobatics and juggling just as well as any adults I had seen. Of course, there were clowns too and I found them weird and creepy but that was to be expected. The show was based on Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass (the books) and was a lot of fun. Everybody I talked to loved the show and the school is still alive today so I have to assume they put on a good show.

I was so sticky by the end of the day

I was so sticky at the end of most days.

The most I saw of the kids is when they came to load up little wagons with popcorn to sell in the performance tent. I spent my days bent over the popcorn machine or the cotton candy machine. It was actually pretty cool learning how to make cotton candy and kids thought I was awesome and special for being able to do it. That part was cool but it was still a hard job. I learned to smile through the pain and other important customer service techniques you need when you do not exactly love your job.

This was my best friend all summer

This was my best friend all summer.

In between shows, I read a lot and hung out with roustabouts. The trailers we all lived in were arranged in such a way that it formed little, hidden areas where customers could not see us hanging out in front of our doors. The guys who put up the performance tent and were hired for hard labor spent a lot of time just hanging out and shooting the breeze. They were fun but I was a young nerd and these alpha dogs were a little intimidating for me. I was pretty sure some of them would have had criminal records for doing dumb stuff if they had ever been caught. They were about as harmless as your high school bully.


I know a lot of this might sound negative but I just want to impress on you how hard this job was. I think if I really loved the job, I would have had a lot more fun with it but it was not my cup of tea. It was still a valuable experience even if it was tiring and hard to remember through the blur. It was a long time to be separated from phones, the internet and my family and friends. In the end, I was glad that I did it but I was also glad when I left that job to get ready to go back to school.


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