There's just no clowning around with safety

August 26, 2008

I know in this day and age you can't be too careful, and that every entity of a suspicious nature should probably be checked out to protect the public from harm.

But a doll? No, not just a doll, a porcelain clown doll.

Somebody's been reading too much Stephen King.

The doll shut down Antietam Street for an hour Thursday before investigators concluded that the suspicious object was, well, a doll.

Really, who do you call in these situations, the bomb squad or Jody and Buffy? Quick, somebody better evacuate Chuck E. Cheese's.

The clown doll goes down with other notable nonbombs, including the suspicious package that was blown up near Annapolis a decade or more ago that turned out to be filled with dirty diapers. Or the suspicious package in the State House that turned out to be a senator's briefcase.


I don't want to read too much into the fact that the doll was found outside the local meth clinic. No, I take that back. I do want to read too much into it. If you're late for your dose, a clown doll could look like anything.

As standard protocol (there's a standard protocol for what do to if Barbie shows up on your veranda? Boy, those guys think of everything) the clients and staff of the treatment center were evacuated until the matter could be set straight.

This happened first thing in the morning, so you know some of the folks are anticipating their medicine with considerable interest - and then this?

"Here's your - whoops, everybody out."

"What man? NOOOOO ..."

I wasn't there, but when they reopened the doors it looked like the stampede to get into an Aerosmith concert.

But forget all that, my main question is - what did they do with the doll? Does it go to a crime museum under the category of "Things That Turned Out Not To Be Bombs?" It's not too early to think about Christmas; maybe the police could regift.

Curious, with all the things around Hagerstown that I would willingly categorize as legitimate "suspicious objects," the last two things to bring the city to a standstill were a clown doll and a pregnant woman from Africa.

You wonder, when the police had the streets cordoned off and had the object surrounded ("Put your hands up and step away from the doll house"), wasn't there an officer or two who was thinking, "Come on guys, it's just a doll."

That can't be a good feeling. You know it's just a doll, but you still have to follow proper procedure, maintain safe distance and bring in the bomb-sniffing dogs.

It also reflects on today's youth, and society in general. In these days of Wii, electronic toys, computer games, Guitar Hero and text messaging - a doll is regarded as "suspicious."

I feel old.

What's next, someone calls 911 when he sees a yo-yo? A Tonka Toy could tie up our emergency service personnel for a week.

Of course, all's well that ends well, and it's nice to know that in the event of actual explosives, there are professionals willing to do the job.

I'm sure they, and the rest of us, are quite happy when it turns out to be child's play.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at

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