Michael Early
  • Michael Early
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Frannie the Clown, Jake Shelton, and Dan Hollister

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."

  • 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.

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.

Frannie's equipment

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!"

  • Mountain Rescue Team Leader

I've been a team member of San Diego Mountain Rescue for 13 years. I'm a systems analyst for Xerox by day, but I'm always on call, and I participate in roughly 30 rescue operations a year.

A mountain rescue team is composed of the leader, a gofer, a litter attendant, a hauler, a rigger, and a safety man. Aside from the team leader, everyone can do everyone else's job. There are no specialists. When I'm called for a job, I first have to come home and put my pack together. And what I pack depends on the nature of the operation. If I know that it's going to be a technical call, I'll pack the majority of my rock gear. Sometimes we do urban searches, where we just walk down streets and alleys. In that case, I'll bring a much lighter pack. But we do have what we call a standard field pack, which includes things like a first-aid kit, a compass, map, GPS, a Swiss Army knife. It's a basic, self-sufficient kind of pack.

When I assemble my pack, I organize it a specific way. That way, when I'm in the field, if I need my first-aid kit, then I know right where it's at, or if I need my technical gear, it's always there for me to find it right away. When you're packing, you want to think about evening out the weight distribution and about getting the weight-center of the pack to be lower and closer to your back. My heavy, technical gear will typically go in first. And you always want the stuff that you're going to need quickly on the top. The first-aid kit is always on the top and ready to grab. Also my food, because we rarely stop and have lunch; it's we more like graze on power bars and trail mix, stuff like that. Water should always be handy. Sometimes I use water bottles, and sometimes I use a device that has the hose connected to it.

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