Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Working in post-production suddenly made me flashback to my days DJing for my college radio station. It’s not so much all the creative fun -- whether spinning blues records for the radio or cutting blue material for TV -- that brought me back. More likely, it’s being surrounded by all the heavy electric equipment in a closed confined space. Basically, what took me down memory lane was being in another potential electrical fire.

There’s plenty of precautions, of course. The sprinkler systems, the emergency exits, and of course, fire extinguishers. But do they really work?

It’s not something you really think about. Who pays attention to safety equipment when you’re perusing the radio station’s impressive record collection? When there’s shelves stocked with countless classics, one might be pondering whether to listen to Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Minnie or Mississippi Fred McDowell (who was actually from Tennessee, and “do not play no rock n’ roll, y’all. Just straight and natchel blues.”).

With so much vinyl to choose from, no true blues fan would give a second thought to the dusty old fire extinguisher stuck in the corner near the storage closets. In fact, it was blocking me from checking out the New Orleans section, filed under Z for Zydeco -- I’d just move this thing out of the way, lemme pick it up and --

KSSSSSHHHH! The extinguisher went off. I had barely touched the handle, but it seemed to have a hair trigger and started spraying yellow powder everywhere. First I tried to get the canister to shut off, but squinting and tearing up, I couldn't figure it out. Then I realized that the dust could damage the precious music, so I shut the locker before the blues turned into yellows. Finally, it occurred to me that the flame retardant fog wasn't good for me either.

Still holding the expectorating extinguisher, I stumbled blindly for exit. Perhaps out in an open space I could see what I was doing and shut the damn thing off. I stepped out of the radio station, into the main hall of our college campus activity center building. Where the annual crafts fair was taking place.

There were booths with homemade jewelry, hand-painted dishes, wind chimes, etc. Craft creators from all over the city congregated here. And amid all the knick-knacks, paddywacks candle wax, artifacts… a gas bomber attacks.

There I was, bursting into the crowd, within an increasing cloud of chemicals. Just beyond me, I saw a couple of security guards. Great. Maybe they could help shut this thing off; I was gonna asphyxiate. But they just stood there, each commenting on the incident into their walkie-talkies. Well, report on this, Rent-a-Keystone-Kop: The faulty yellow-feverish equipment is your problem now. Jaundiced Boy has left the building.

Later, security called my dorm room and interrogated me over the phone. I explained it was an accident, that I certainly had no intention of sabotaging the crafts fair.

They asked: Why did I leave the scene?

“Uh, so I could breathe?”

I asked them: Why didn’t they help me? A kid is trying his best to defuse this detonating device and all they can do is give a play-by-play and suspect me of tchotchke terrorism. I worked at the college radio station, was checking out Professor Longhair, and wound up not only as Blind Lemon Jefferson, but as Big Threat on Campus.

They let me off the hook, and soon everyone forgot the whole thing.

But since I’m back in post production, I suddenly remembered it all. And now I know better. Unless it’s an emergency, stay away from the emergency equipment. And as always, stay cool. This fellow is mellow, but not yellow.


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