A landscaper in northeast Ohio was relieved of his duties yesterday after management discovered that he had dressed like a clown during business hours. The employee, Earl, was taking part in the Kocic Landscaping Inaugural Halloween Costume Day at the time. Kocic Landscaping, in an effort to boost company morale, allowed employees this year to dress up in costumes since late hours on the job prevent them from trick-or-treating at home with their families.
“We thought it would be a nice gesture,” said Tony Kocic, owner of Kocic Landscaping. “We had no idea it would blow up in our faces.”
Kocic explained that every employee received a memo in advance which indicated what sorts of costumes were deemed appropriate and which ones were not. Being a clown was strongly prohibited. The company suggested male employees dress like Spiderman or their favorite football player. Spiderman is sleek and he doesn’t wear a lot of junk that gets in the way. As for the football get-up? Wearing a helmet this time of the year is wise because mowers go in and around wooded areas having low-hanging branches. Dressing like a football player is both fun and safe. Female employees were asked to dress like Raggedy Ann, Little Bo Peep, and Louisa May Alcott. Not for safety reasons, but because these characters rank high on Kocic’s list of favorite females in history.
When employees reported to work in the morning, Earl was dressed as Spiderman and seemed in good spirits. But his behavior became increasingly erratic. Two crew members reported that Earl stopped a company truck on their way to the first job and went into the woods carrying a large duffel bag. He told his crew that he had to “take a leak.” Earl emerged 5 minutes later in a clown suit. To make matters worse, the employee who was seated in the middle was forced to operate the pedals while Earl steered because his clown shoes were too big for him to sense where the accelerator and brake were.
When the crew finally arrived at its first stop, things got even more interesting. Earl, despite pleas from crew members, insisted on using the company’s upright stand-on mower even though his size 24 clown shoes made it impossible for him to stand on the mower’s 12” platform. After 15 minutes of trying to operate the mower without falling off, Earl rigged up a contraption from materials he had found in the truck. His ingenuity, regardless of how misdirected it was, allowed him to extend the size of the platform. But he failed to take into consideration that by extending the size of the platform to accommodate his large shoes, he now had to extend his arms further in order to reach the controls. He was able to achieve this for a short while before running into a row of thorny barberry bushes and getting hurt.
“Listen, it’s not like we’re a bank or retail establishment where you can go all willy-nilly,” explained Mr. Kocic. “Our workers operate dangerous equipment. We gave them strict orders to refrain from wearing costumes that would prevent them from doing their jobs safely. I mean, I wanted to be Batman for chrissakes. But you try operating a sit-down mower while wearing a cape. The blades could suck it from under you and choke you to death!”
Then there was the big red nose Earl was sporting that prevented him from wearing safety goggles. Kocic adheres to a no-nonsense safety goggles policy. Prior to enacting the policy, three employees had each lost an eye for failing to wear safety goggles. Luckily, they are still employed with the company and were granted permission to dress like pirates and wear eye patches for this occasion. Earl spent the day without safety goggles because he could not get them to fit on his fake nose.
Kocic workers are also required to carry in their pockets extra string trimming line for when they run out. Earl, when reaching for more line, kept pulling from his pocket a 40-foot string of colorful silk scarves. Crowds gathered around to see what Earl would pull out of his pocket next, which kept him from doing his job, making the other two members of his crew pull double-duty.
Earl even went so far as to attach an old bicycle horn to his mower and sound it every time he finished making a pass in a customer’s yard. But what irked Mr. Kocic the most was his phone ringing off the hook. “As you know, a lot of kids hate clowns. In one neighborhood in particular, we got at least 20 calls from parents wondering why their kids were having a hard time falling asleep last night.”
Kocic, who dressed like Freddy Krueger, is considering canceling next year’s costume day unless every one of his 52 employees cooperate and read their “damn memos!”
When word got out at the end of the day that Kocic was thinking about suspending next year’s dress up day, one angry employee jumped on a tractor and chased Earl around the shop. Earl was forced to hide behind an empty rain barrel. After the employee stopped giving chase, Earl picked up the rain barrel and threw it at him, striking the employee on the back. Management intervened and within minutes Earl was issued his walking papers.
A co-worker at Kocic Landscaping, who wished not to be identified, believes that Earl finally cracked. “Leaves that never stop flying and being away from Halloween candy does that to a person.”
Prior to dress up day, Earl was considered a model employee during a career that he claims spanned 16 years in the industry. He proudly displayed his Employee of the Month certificates in the company break room. After his termination, Earl had plenty to say.
“They haven’t heard the last of me. I’ll take this all the way to the Ohio Landscapers Association!”
Earl plans to file a grievance with the Fair Employment Agency “first chance he gets.”
The search is now on for someone to move into Earl’s role at Kocic Landscaping. Interested candidates are encouraged to contact the firm immediately. According to Earl, finding a replacement for him is not going to be easy.
“They have some big shoes to fill. Really big shoes.”