The campus Christian fellowship I was involved with in college had a big reunion every summer. We would all spend a day at the beach and have a massive barbecue/sleepover at a member’s big house in nearby Toms River, NJ. One year, I left the reunion sleepover early because I was working for a Greeting Card Company at the time and needed to open the store the next morning. By leaving early, I mean midnight or so that night. I wasn’t very good at following directions, I didn’t have a GPS, and I managed to get lost on back roads in Toms River.
As I’m driving around looking for signs for the highway, I stopped at a red light in the left of two lanes. On the right, a white van pulled up next to me. I glanced in that direction and did a double take to verify that I was indeed looking at clowns.
They were wearing masks very much like this one from The Dark Knight (which came out that summer). The clown in the driver’s seat and the clown in the passenger seat were both facing me with the driver side window open, and I could see silhouettes of more clowns through the semi-tinted other windows. The important thing was that I was looking right at not one clown, but a group of clowns. A gathering of clowns! A nest of clowns! A veritable murder of clowns! A shed worth of clowns! And they were staring back at me.
Once I established that I had not fallen asleep at the wheel, I tried not to look at them and floored it when the light turned green. Beyond the intersection, the two lanes merged back into one, and the van was behind me. We drove like this for some time, and I scrambled to remember what you’re supposed to do when you think someone is following you. I took a right turn off the main road I was on into a neighborhood, and so did the clowns. I drove through the neighborhood until I came back to the main road and turned right to keep going the same direction, and so did the clowns. Oh my god, they’re following me.
There were no open businesses that I could pull into, and no smart phone to locate a police station. Don’t ask me why I didn’t call 911. It honestly didn’t cross my mind. Next time YOU’RE followed by a van full of clowns, I look forward to hearing how clear your thought process was.
I tried to call a few friends on my flip phone, to no avail. A friend later said she had a voicemail from me that was so hysterical and high-pitched that all she could make out were words like “CLOWNS” and “TOMS RIVER”, so she assumed things were fine. I was hysterical and high-pitched a lot those days. Fair!
Things went on for close to a half hour before I finally found a ramp to 195. The clownmobile did not follow me onto 195, and I concluded that by then God had had his laugh and let me go home. Could they have been Toms River teenagers who liked The Dark Knight masks and thought it was ever so edgy to troll the streets to scare people? Maybe. Could they have been an Insane Posse sent to kill me by Bello the clown from the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus I went to in 2002 because he sensed I hated him and thought he was terrifying? You tell me. All I know is I was chased by a van full of clowns in 2008 and survived.
Please note: the internet says that a group of clowns is called a mutiny. Everything’s fine!