20 July 2009

Confession- Not of the Catholic Variety

I received a voice mail yesterday requesting that I update my blog with a new entertaining story because “We think you are hilarious.” This request leads me to a sad confession: I’m not funny. I just have frequent interaction with highly amusing teens. I have elicited many a laugh by simply repeating exactly what the kids say. And the best part is they don’t even know that they are being exploited. I steal all of their good material and use it as conversation fodder. And all they get in return is homework. I feel a little like an imperialist colonizing some distant land, stealing the natural resources and telling the natives that it's for their own good.

My blog has suffered a little neglect lately because it’s summer vacation. I am certain that I have a rather large supply of enjoyable anecdotes from previous school years that have not yet been chronicled. However, today’s recollection of school has provoked only frustrating memories of an insane principal who thinks it’s a good idea to teach Social Studies without using maps, a human resources director that has yet to send me my service record despite the fact that I personally hand delivered my written request for said record over a month ago, and a payroll department that deducted 3 months worth of benefits from my last paycheck, but cancelled my insurance coverage effective the last day of school.

So rather than sharing a story from school, today I will share a story my students tend to enjoy that I wrote during my college days of working security. Hopefully it will suffice. It is kind of long, so I think it deserves a separate title. (For a shorter read and a good laugh see my brother's blog. It's pretty awesome)

Security Adventures at the Motion Picture Studio

Things that are good with Cayenne Pepper:
Mexican food in general
French onion soup
Cajun food

Things that are much better without Cayenne Pepper:
Ice cream
Chocolate milk
Blueberry Pie

Despite what I thought, it's not just a rumor or a myth. Security officers who carry pepper spray must, in fact, first be sprayed themselves. I have been warned about pepper spray training since I was hired almost a full ten months ago, but the date kept getting pushed back. I was beginning to think that it was all just an act and at some point they would finally admit it was just a story and then give us the pepper spray. As it turns out, I was wrong.

The whole event took place at the campus motion picture studio. First we had "training" on how to use pepper spray. This was perhaps the most boring hour and a half of my day. There's not much to be said about pepper spray. However, in true bureaucratic fashion, the police department dragged this small amount of information out extensively and then made us take a test. Upon succesfull completion of the multiple choice exam we each had a turn spraying water (not pepper spray) at a picture of shady looking "assailant." Then we were all lined up for our turn to experience pepper spray first hand. They call this "training" or "practical experience." I have not yet determined whether it's training for the security officers or just live target practice for the sergeant.

I was Sarah's partner. She was quite anxious to get the whole thing over with, and so pushed her way to the front of the line. My job as her partner: once she had been blinded and incapacitated by the spray help her find her way to the hose and "decontaminate" her. We had been warned that the pepper spray would get in our hair and that we should make sure to spend enough time at the hose to get all of the pepper off. She was instructed to cover one eye and close her mouth, and then he sprayed her. As soon as the spray hit her face she started vigorously waving her arms, hopping from one foot to the other, and moaning. As she was writhing, I helped her over to the hose and handed it to her. Unfortunately she couldn't see, and got me pretty wet before she got it pointed in the right direction. After she had enough of the hose I was handed a squirt bottle and instructed to take her over to the fan where I would continue to spray her eyes with water. She knelt in front of the fan, rocked back and forth and moaned some more. Her brother, who is also a security officer and has been sprayed before, stepped in to help. He told her she had to hold her eyes open so that the water could get in. She didn't like that suggestion very much, but he took over the decontamination, and I was then sent over to help Jill. Jill preferred screaming to moaning, but did much less squirming than Sarah.

By the time I got Jill over to the fans pretty much everyone had been sprayed. With those encouraging examples, someone else was assigned to oversee the remainder of Jill's decontamination, David was assigned to be my partner, and it was my turn. I was the last person to be sprayed, so I was surrounded by the comforting sound of moaning and screaming officers who were still experiencing the effects of the pepper. I handed my glasses to David, covered my left eye, closed my mouth, squared my shoulders and nervously anticipated the spray of misery in a bottle. As the stream hit my face it instantly sent a message to every particle of fluid in my body to fight it's way out of either my eyes or my nose. Stinging and intense burning ensued. I tried to force my eyes open, but couldn't see a thing. David led me over to the hose. As I stumbled across the parking lot I momentarily forgot that I still had complete control over my respiratory system. I finally remembered that the pepper spray had not inhibited my ability to breath and started to take a gasping breath just as David shoved the hose of cold water in my face. I choked on a mouthful of cold water, grabbed the hose and started to rinse out my eyes.

I was very quickly drenched, and started to shiver. Whoever scheduled pepper spray training at night during the winter must have been from somewhere like Texas. David reminded me to rinse the pepper spray out of my hair. I compliantly put a small amount of water on the very front part of my hair. This wasn't good enough for David, so he told me again. I was freezing cold (although my face was burning) and wasn't about to put more cold water on my head. David took the hose away from me and thoroughly doused my head. Once again I momentarily forgot that I was capable of breathing. I informed him on no uncertain terms that I'd had enough. He then led me still partially blinded and face burning, but now also shivering and gasping/coughing over to the fans and sprayed more cold water into my face. At about the time my teeth started chattering I was able to open my eyes and the intense burning had subsided to a severe stinging. I anxiously moved away from the fans and gratefully put on a dry shirt and my jacket, and tried to remove the icicles from my hair.

As I warmed up to the point where I was again capable of coherent thought I discovered that all of the water that had successfully removed the pepper spray from my eyes had also quite effectively spread it down my face and neck. I also quite proudly noted that while I was the last one to be sprayed, I was not the last one to recover. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for putting up a good fight in the face of Cayenne pepper. Oh wait, the pepper was in my face. Whatever...

In an effort to comfort all of us, our sergeant reminded us that no one had ever died from pepper spray. I asked him if anyone had died from hypothermia during pepper spray training. He didn't think that was very funny. He saw the redness on my face and neck and told me that it would feel like the worst sunburn of my life for a while, and then it would go away. He then reminded us all that we should be careful when we showered because it was very likely that the pepper spray would drip from our hair back into our eyes. Then we left. My neck was a little sore, but as a redhead I've had some pretty hard core sunburns in my life so I wasn't too worried. I went home and hopped in the shower.

I was grateful to have warm water for a change, and washed my hair very carefully. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, some water did drip onto my face. I squeezed my eyes shut and anticipated more stinging, but it wasn't bad. There was almost no pepper spray still in my hair. Props to David for a job well done, even if it was with cold water. The burning on my face and neck was another story. When I got into the shower it felt, as I had been warned, like the worst sunburn I've ever had. Once I got out of the shower it felt about a million times worse than the worst sunburn I've ever had. In addition to the now familiar burning and stinging, it felt like someone was tearing off my skin. Except if they had torn off my skin it might have stopped burning. I tried to cool it off with a wet washcloth, but this made it worse. It was kind of like when you walk around in the snow for a long time, and your feet get really really cold, and then you come inside to warm them up, and warming them up makes it hurt worse. I hopped back in the shower, and this time turned on the cold water. As long as I was standing in the water I was fine, but as soon as I would move my neck would start to hurt again. So I stood shivering and teeth chattering in the shower for quite a while. When I looked at my fingers and noticed they were blue I decided it was time to get out. I soaked my shirt in cold water before I put it on and wrapped a wet towel around my neck like a scarf. Then I pulled my quilt off my bed and sat on the couch feeling quite pathetic and sorry for myself.

So now when I walk into work and grab my keys, radio, and flashlight I can also slip a canister of pepper spray onto my belt. Was it worth it?... Well, I don't think a single security officer has ever used pepper spray on campus, but if I'm the first that would be pretty cool.

editor's note- I never did get to utilize my pepper spray training, and as far as I know neither has any other security officer to date.

1 comment:

Tiffany Caruthers said...

Here I thought that story was just for me! T