Michael Early: "My tool belt — construction workers call them "bags" — are usually set up beforehand."
  • Michael Early: "My tool belt — construction workers call them "bags" — are usually set up beforehand."
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Have your friends and neighbors looked weighed down, put upon, or bent low to the ground lately? Perhaps they are! After all, many of the people we see around us tote a good deal of gear around with them: Chainsaws and helmets, toolbelts and chests, clown shoes and rubber noses. These are just some of the implements people use to earn their daily bread.

To find out more about the tools people use, and the ways they use them, I tracked down seven men and women working in seven different professions and asked them to describe their jobs, the tools it took to do them, and any rituals and superstitions that might have built up around those tools. Then, in order to see just how burdensome those jobs could be, I calculated the precise weight of those tools -- down to the nearest ounce. Below, my results:

Frannie the Clown: "What I take to a hospital is different from what I'd take to a birthday party."

  • FRANNIE
  • Clown

When I get started doing my makeup, I give myself an hour and a half just to put on my face. I need another 15 to 20 minutes to put on my costume. Then I gather my things and pack up my car. I allow myself at least an hour to get to a program. I'm always fashionably early.

Frannie's equipment

I put my makeup on more or less the same way every time. After you "cut out" the white design you use for your base, you put the colors on, and after the colors, you have to set it, because it's all greasepaint. You set it with baby powder, then you brush that off and start applying sparkles. A clown is supposed to be completely covered when he or she goes out to be a clown. No skin showing through; it's all makeup and costume. Once in a while I'll take off my gloves to do some face painting, or something like it.

My costume goes: blouse, bloomers, apron, socks, shoes, collar, and wig, in that order. Then I fill my pockets. Balloons and squeakers, little noisemakers, different types of clown rings, business cards, stickers. That sort of thing. Then I have to load my car up. I put in table and chair, my bubbles and balloons, my electric pump, and the cart I use to push this stuff around in.

Of course, what I take to a hospital is different from what I'd take to a birthday party. I do lots of room visits in the hospitals, so I don't need my table and my chair. A lot of times, I'll prepare 200 balloons before I leave in the morning. I get them ready beforehand because I sometimes do three or four hospitals back to back, and I'll do dozens of balloon animals in each one.

When you're a clown, you stay in makeup until you get home. So driving home from work, you're still a clown. And, trying to drive in clown shoes, let me tell you.... When I do get home, I take the wig off first, then the costume. The makeup is greasepaint, so getting it off involves baby oil and baby wipes. And the older and more wrinkled I get, the longer it takes. These days, it takes me anywhere from 20 minutes to a half an hour.

My character, Frannie the Clown, is the child I never had. So trust me, if there's something out there Frannie wants, then Frannie gets it. I have pretty much all of the state-of-the-art equipment. When I have old things I don't want or need anymore, I'll give them to new clowns. Frannie the Clown gets a new wig every month or two months, and I give my old wigs to churches, children, other clowns. I used to wear red hair all the time. These days, I have bright yellow hair. I used to say, "Blondes have more fun, but redheads get the job done." And now that Frannie's a blonde, I say, "Blondes have more fun and they get the job done!"

Dan Hollister: "The motorpants go on first. Then comes a T-shirt and bulletproof vest."

  • Dan Hollister
  • Police Sergeant

Hollister's equipment

I've been on the San Diego police force for over 20 years. Thirteen on a SWAT team, and the last 7 on a motorcycle squad. I follow a definite routine when I get ready for work; everything goes on in a specific order, especially during the winter months when you're putting on additional layers of clothing. The motorpants go on first. If it's cold enough, I'll put long underpants on before the motorbritches. Then comes a T-shirt and bulletproof vest. Cold mornings I might put on a turtleneck on top of that. Then comes the uniform shirt, then the leather jacket and the police belt.

I don't have any superstitions when it comes to getting ready. As long as everything goes on, fits correctly, and feels good, then it's good to go. I mean, you double check everything; you don't want to walk out of your house without your gun, but if everything is where it's supposed to be, then that's enough for me.

Motorcycle officers don't forget things as often as patrol officers, because motorcycle officers get ready at home and then ride into work. Patrol officers come to work in their civilian vehicles and then get ready in the locker room. Me, I have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom where I store everything so that it's out of reach of my kids.

Everything I carry to work with me is special; it all has a purpose. But if I had to pick a favorite tool, it would have to be my firearm. That's the bread and butter. The motorcycle isn't a luxury; it's something I need to do my job. But I think if you ask any law-enforcement officer to pick one tool, then the firearm is the one that makes all the difference in the world.

I've used my gun, but I've never had to fire it. I'm lucky. I've used the gun to gain compliance in various situations. Knock on wood, the bulletproof vest is the one thing that I've never had to use. Yet.

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