13 Clowns in a Volkswagen

published July 19, 2014

I used to joke about this. Whenever the hypothetical subject of dying came up I used to joke about going out in a way that would make people laugh. It was a joke because that sort of question always made me squeamish. It’s a horrible thing to bring up in passing conversation, but something I’ve had to address a half dozen times. I don’t know why. Maybe my friends are assholes.

“I’ll probably have a heart attack… Like my dad.” Cheerful.

“Well… Cancer runs in my family.” Optimistic.

Kyle, the thrill seeker I know, would talk about the rock climbing excursion where he’d touch the heavens before falling quickly to well-deserved glory. Moron.

I would say something like,

“I’ll probably get plowed over at a crosswalk by 13 clowns stuffed into a Volkswagen.”

I said things like that because I never liked to think about the reality of death and I wanted the people insistent on this absurd conversation to feel like idiots for including me in it. It seems so merciless and insane to entertain these things in everyday life.

But here I am, dying, and it’s hilarious.

There are several rules for entering The Vault. That’s what we call the server room at the company I work for. It’s large, windowless, locked, and cold.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE VAULT

  1. Always have your key card
  2. Always inform your supervisor you are entering
  3. Absolutely no food or drink allowed
  4. No synthetic clothing

There are a few more, but I can’t remember them and the sign is on the outside of the door. I’ve never paid that much attention to the rules because it’s impossible to enter The Vault without a key card. I’ve forgotten mine plenty of times at my desk and had to walk back so I can swipe myself in and out.

On Christmas Eve though the last few of us who had any reason to still be around were scrambling to get out the door. I was hot. The office is a thousand degrees lately because everyone whines so much about the cold. I hardly ever need to be in the server room, but I’ve been diving in here lately because the AC is always on overdrive to keep the computers cool.

Three days ago one of our IT guys, Frank, was coming out and I grabbed the door before it closed for what I expected to be a quick cool down. My key card was not on my person like it’s supposed to be at all times. It was sitting next to my lunch on my desk about 6 feet away. The door clicked behind me, and I was the only one in there. The click didn’t register right away.

It’s so peaceful in here.

The walls are extra insulated, the hum of the AC is constant but not too loud. There’s this faint sound of the computers doing their thing. It’s like being inside the seashell instead of just holding it up to your ear. I love it. Which I guess is great because I’ve come to accept that I’m dying in here.

It’s December 26th.

Few people, if anyone, will show up to the office until New Year’s Day and I doubt I’ll make it that long. I’m already insanely thirsty. I’m also cold. I have a long sleeve shirt on, but since the office has been so hot lately I’m not really bundled up all that well. The hilarious part is that I had to walk to work 3 days ago so there’s a huge pile of warm clothes next to my desk right now.

It must be in the 50s in The Vault. Maybe it just feels that cold.

The Vault is a spartan room. Three rows of rack servers and one little terminal that I don’t know how to use at all. It doesn’t get the interwebs. It’s just lines of code. I’ve typed everything I can think of for the last few days and accomplished nothing. I did pull up a “HELP” menu somehow, but “ESCAPING THE VAULT WITHOUT A KEY CARD” was not listed in topics.

There’s a utility closet in the corner, for some stupid reason, that has overstock of things like printer paper and thumbtacks. No one uses the stuff in here but me and the other 3 people with cubicles closer to the server room than the supply room. I was trying to write small since all I could find were these sharpies, but I’m so pissed off to be dying I’m taking every last piece of paper with me as I go.

So. That’s why I did that Howard, our beloved CEO.

Dear Howard,

If you’re reading this and I’m dead, I think you should move the overstock office supplies somewhere else. Also, while I have your attention. I totally understand the need to key card yourself INTO the server room, but it makes no sense to have to swipe OUT. I’m sure you have a really great reason for this, you prick, but I’ll never get to hear it now will I? Happy fucking New Year.

Sincerely,

Your dead employee

Sorry. It’s not Howard’s fault. It’s just a moment of panic. I’ve had several over the last few days. No matter the circumstances no one smiles in the face of death, even when that face resembles Bozo.

It’s my fault really. I left my phone at my desk, my key card (obviously), and I even walked to work today because I couldn’t find my regular keys at home, which I imagine are probably somewhere obvious there like that stupid key card is here.

My desk is just right there. It’s maddening. If this door were unlocked my desk is so close that despite its weight I could kick it open, grab my key card, and jump back in here again before it slammed shut.

I’m totally warming to the fantasy of dying in a rock climbing fall. That really would be better than this. I’d like to live another few years and then will voluntarily submit to dying participating in stupid and unnecessary recreational athletics.

Okay. December 27.

It’s been another day. I’ve been crying in the corner of the overstock closet for hours. I tried to make myself stop because I’m already severely dehydrated. I’m dizzy and weak and I thought I saw Christopher Walken in here with me last night. I don’t know why my mind produced him for my hallucination leading to death. Probably has something to do with The Dead Zone. Or maybe Annie Hall. Anyway, I’m a little clearer now and I miss him. He’s the only person I’ve seen in 4 days.

I’m going to rest again. I’ve made myself a little nest of copy paper and rolled my clothes in packing tape. That helps retain my body heat a little. So I won’t die of exposure in here. Which is a shame because that would really be the funniest way to go given that outside the server room I bet it’s like 80 or 90 degrees.

December 28

I heard someone come in I thought. I banged on the door a lot, like my first day in here, but like the first day I haven’t been liberated. I can’t believe this is how I’m going.

December 29

It’s pretty miserable in here. I’m really tired. My lips hurt and I contemplated drinking copy toner. It would have been delicious I bet, but I still might be saved.

I love you mom, and Gladys, and even you Kyle, you rock climbing asshole. I don’t want anyone to cry. Just laugh. And I know this is a weird request and I’m delirious basically, but I’d like to be decked out in full clown regalia for my funeral. Have the mortician make me look like the friendliest clown he can think of. And if you could get me an undersized coffin that’d be great.

I love you all. I’m sorry you have to clean up this mess.

Sincerely,

Kevin