There was a day back in 1992 that I have long been convinced signalled the end of civilization. In the tangled undergrowth of my memory I am unable to weed out the precise date, only the year. The herald of the end was delivered via the 11:00 PM local newscast. On this day there were two events which occurred, over a thousand miles apart, and were both recorded for the eager appetites of the news consumer.
Paul Ruebens, better known to us of a certain age as the infamous Pee Wee Herman, was busted for masturbating in a public theatre. This report came complete with his mug shot, looking nothing like Pee Wee. A later report informed the viewers that on the same day a long and tense afternoon passed in the parking lot of a Shell gas station on the east side of Columbus, Ohio.
An employee had spotted a container of some kind on the property which they considered “suspicious”. This individual then dutifully phoned the authorities to report the disturbing irregularity. Upon the arrival of a city police cruiser with two uniformed officers there was made a brief examination of the “package” from a safe distance. These two seasoned veterans determined that it was better to err towards the side of caution, calling in the department bomb squad to take control of the scene.
It was never explained by anyone just what there was about this container that was the source of suspicion. Nonetheless the bomb squad did arrive in full protective regalia and proceeded to cordon off the area. Hours passed with additional squad cars arriving to join the fray, parking around the cordoned perimeter in a blinding display of red and blue flashing lights. Police radio static crackled in the air, the siren call to local television news vans which then also arrived to further snarl traffic. Some passers by occasionally tried to assemble and observe the action, or lack of, in the hope of learning what demanded such a heavy police and media presence. These curious citizens were quickly dispatched by officers, no doubt out of a concern for public safety.
One can only assume that there must have been some debate amongst the bomb squad as to proper procedure. Most of the afternoon had passed and as the clock approached rush hour they finally finished suiting up with their hoods and gloves to make their approach on the package. It had loomed there, ominously, as the sun passed overhead to the west. It seemed to be mocking them in it’s inanimate smugness. Without making any more detailed examination it was gingerly lifted from the pavement to be placed within a blast blanket and cautiously removed from the site.
The news report concluded to inform the public that the suspicious parcel was transported in the bomb squads blast resistant van to their training facility and from a safe distance it was detonated. It is not known what method was used for this detonation, but in the department’s official statement it was revealed that the contents of the suspicious box, upon further examination post detonation, were discovered to be nothing more than a collection of old skin magazines.
I had sat through this report hearing it all while not really paying close attention. It was one of those many occasions when one may sit with the television only playing as background. It took several minutes for the enormity of it all to sink in. Pee Wee Herman jerking it in a Florida theatre and the Columbus bomb squad detonates a box of porno mags. On the same day! What are the odds of that, I thought to myself at the time. Surely it must have been a sign. Maybe it was. Maybe we’re all just missing it. Anyway, I thought it worthwhile to provide the reminder. It’s about as relevant as the rest of what passes for news these days.