The Circus Isn’t Coming to Town

The famous tagline of “The Greatest Show on Earth” is now up for grabs since Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is calling it quits after 146 years.

Sad clown face.

It bums me out when iconic institutions go the way of the world. I get it though. Times are a-changin’ and a traveling circus model just doesn’t fit modern society. Why would a kid today care to see wild animals performing tricks, motorbike daredevils and death-defying acrobatics live when they can watch Markiplier play video games on YouTube?

Though I don’t come from a generation that anxiously waited by the railroad tracks for the circus to pull into town, I do have some fond memories of the circus – and some not-so-fond ones. I’ll share my fondest memory first: the time my grandpa took my sisters and me to the circus.

It was a big deal.

Grandpa “B” was a simple, kind man and though he took good care of his family he wasn’t indulgent, so when Mom told us Grandpa was taking us to the circus we were surprised and stoked.

We got “the lecture” before we left, “Please don’t beg or even ask for any treats, trinkets or extras of any kind, you hear me? Stay together, don’t fight, try to avoid using the bathrooms there if you can but pleeeaaase don’t have an accident, and make sure you tell Grandpa how thankful you are for this experience.”

I was thankful for the experience and I told Grandpa so.

It was my first circus and I loved it. I even liked the clowns because they’re actually quite entertaining acting goofy in large groups rather than featured alone creeping through a dark wood carrying an axe. I’m not gonna lie, I wanted cotton candy pretty bad and though I didn’t ask/beg as per warning, I did drop very unsubtle hints – which didn’t work. Even without the cotton candy, it’s one of my favorite memories with Grandpa.

My un-fondest circus memory happened in college. After applying my best flirtation techniques, a guy asked my sister out instead of me, even though she stood there dull as ditchwater when we met him at a dance. He took her to the circus, making me even more jealous. What a fun date!

Though I hated her at the moment, I waited up for my sister to hear the details. When she walked in the door she looked like she’d seen a ghost, which apparently she had. During the show, one of the tightrope walkers fell…no net. Of course, “The show must go on!” and it did, but she said the atmosphere was morose. People hardly clapped, some left, she wanted to. How do you recover from that on a first date? You don’t, so there wasn’t a second date.

Though I didn’t actually witness the horrific circus tragedy, I felt responsible for it. In my spiteful resentment, I’d wished my sister would have a terrible time on her date. Not that terrible, of course.

Why do only my evil wishes come true?

I’m sad the Big Top is coming down permanently, though I am happy those performers will now have safer jobs. Maybe they could play video games on a YouTube channel.

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