Thursday, December 01, 2005
I don't like heights. Granted, that hasn't kept me from flying airplanes or throwing myself from them- but put me in a glass elevator, on a steep staircase, or, in this case, hanging from twenty year old curtains thirty feet above a hard and unforgiving stage and I get a little more than nervous. My legs were wrapped around old and dusty fabric, my knuckles white around the same, stopped just short of the top of the curtains. A few feet above me were the thin aluminum rails that held together the curtains and looking up at them I could see the thin layer of grease that kept the whole thing running smoothly. A thin, greased metal rail that in a few seconds I was going to be holding onto for dear life.
Now almost two months before my loving grip on a most unwilling partner (the curtains), most of us had managed to get out of school for the afternoon, which was no small feat seeing as we lived on campus. After a long walk into downtown Princeton we found ourselves in the Greek diner we had come to frequent, seeing as we can been declared personas non grata at Burger King. Looking around the diner it was easy to see why BK didn't like us- even easier to smell. Our table was surrounded by a thick fog of cigarette smoke. During the week we would be lucky to get in maybe 2 or 3 cigarettes a day on campus, if that- the administration was decidedly anti-smoking, and sneaking a butt on campus took careful planning and perfect execution unless you *liked* waking up at 6am on a Saturday and raking leaves for detention. When we got off campus, we smoked. A lot. So the ashtray was passed from person to person as we told jokes and ate whatever we could afford on the menu, sharing more often than not. We had been trying to think for some time of a good senior prank for that year. I myself was a junior, but most of the friends surrounding me were on the verge of graduating. As I lit a cigarette someone started talking about putting Mace on the faculty's toilet paper. Alex, our unspoken ringleader, shot the idea down:
"Nah, that's too nasty and too destructive. Besides, no one would *see* it. It has to be something that everyone could see, not something the teachers could keep quiet about."
I took a short puff of my cigarette and exhaled slowly. "What about putting goldfish or crabs in all the toilets?" I wasn't feeling particularly creative.
"Too hard to clean up. We don't want the janitors working overtime, that would just make them come down harder on us."
Several other people chimed in with ideas, all were shot down for one good reason or another. As someone's food came Alex took a long, slow drag off another person's butt and withdrew in silent contemplation. His lips curled into an evil smile as he turned toward me.
"No, you know what would be the fuck-all greatest senior pank? To drop an inflatable love doll from the ceiling during the last assembly of the year."
Adam, John, and I got a pen fromt he waitress and scrounged some semi-clean napkins and began to talk about how feasible it would be. Being the 3 biggest geeks around, we knew a few things about how you might drop a love doll from someone's ceiling- and just as importantly, both John and Adam had spent the last 4 years working on the stage and catwalks for the drama crew.
"We'll use a radio-controlled car..."
"Someone in the audience with the controller..."
"On a bungie cord...."
Oddly enough, just a week before Boie (who we called Happy-to-be-Knappy Boie, the most unclean person living in the dorms, who as a kid was known for thrashing on the ground and eating dirt) has given me several hundred feet of rubber surgical tubing for my birthday. Noone else really gave me anything for my birthday, and I treated Boie like shit just like anyone else, so go figure. I had it in my door room, not knowing what to do with it- until now. You have to wonder if Boie was clairvoyant.
"Put the car on the catwalk, tie it to the surgical tubing..."
"Yeah that would work.... what else?"
Our minds were reeling. What could go wrong? Were we missing anything? We would get one shot at this, and didn't have too much time to set it up.
"Ummm.... how are we going to keep the car charged while it's up there? It'll be up there close to all night, and the batteries won't last that long."
"We'll have to wire up a battery pack in parallel, to get more amps going through it so it lasts all night, shouldn't be too hard."
We already had all sorts of electronic equipment from our radio station and no one would notice me soldering something all night- the dorms were used to the smell of hold lead and surfuric acid, not to mention my grumbling as I burned various parts of my anatomy ion my crampt room.
Three weeks later Sunshine and I walked half a mile off campus early in the afternoon and sat on a pie of leaves, scanning in both directions for cars and faculty members. If we were caught off campus we'd both be dead meat, but if they knew what we were up to we'd be even deader. A familiar truck came around the bend and slowed slightly, Sunshine jumped on the running board and jumped in with me right behind them. Adam was lucky- he lived off cmapus at home and had his own car. We sped away from the direction of the school, Sunny and I keeping low and out of sight until we were on the highway. We headed for the state line, and beyond that, Pennsylvania.
After getting lost several times we ended up in New Hope. Now after travelling all over the world, I've found that every city has a New Hope, a Greenwish Village, a Haight. A red light district were there's a bong shop on every corner and you can buy just about anything legally- or just barely legally. Only Sunny had been to New Hope before, and that was on a weekend school trip, so she lead the way- or tried to. One of the funny things about places like New Hope is that the streets are always narrow, and parking's a bitch. Adam squeezed the truck into a space made for a Yugo, with the truck bed hanging out into the street as Sunny and I walked into the first shop that looked like it catered to those of an alternative lifestyle. We looked around racks of oddly shaped plastic appendages while Sunny giggled and thought about getting some goodies to take home, but saw no love dolls. Finally Adam showed up and he and Sunny had to ask the salesperson for help. I could think of few people who would look more out of place ina sex toy store than this lady- she looked like your typecast librarian. We were disappointed to learn that no, they didn't have inflatable love dolls like what you see advertised in the back of cheesy porno magazines (which, I guess, is where Alex got the idea). But she said they did have a large inflatable penis, and wondered if that would suit us. She lead us back behind the racks of toys and fuzzy handcuffs and showed us the package:
"36" Inflatable Penis WITH BALLS!"
Well, that would have to do. After some negotiations and shuffling of money and ID to prove that at least *one* of us was over 18, we walked out with the deflated cock in a plain paper bag and hopped in the truck. With a lot of luck, and some screaming we got back onto the highway and headed back toward Princeton, aware that the longer this next step took, the greater the chance that we would be spotted by some faculty member out and about doing their own shopping. We parked the truck near one of the entrances to the largest mall in the area- and the only one with a Radio Shack. We found a radio cotnrolled car on sale that would do what we needed and bought it and a stack of batteries before scurrying back out to the truck.
That night we ordered pizza and ate in the Room Of Doom, not only the largest dorm room on campus in the main mansion, but the home of the radio station. With the door locked Alex and Ethan inflated the giant penis while Adam and I opened up the radio controlled car and started soldering the double-sized battery pack together. Before long it was time for the manditory study hall for boarding students, so I ran down to my room and screwed around on the computer for two hours while Alex and everybody else hid the goods and tried to look innocent. When I got back to the Room of Doom later that night, Adam showed me the burned ruin of the car. During a test run with the extended battery pack the transformers that delivered power to the motors exploded- it wasn't meant to take the power were were putting through it. Adam carefully undid all the work we had soldered onto the car and boxed it up. The next day Radio Shack took it back and replaced with without question (thankfully they didn't open it up) but we were back to the drawing board. We had no way to be sure that the batteries would last the many hours the car would have to wait in place at the ready before we set it going on it's fatal bungie jump. We were stumped for ideas. Building a battery pack that should have lasted all night had fried the car, so that wasn't an option any more. As I tried to think of outer sources of power I looked over the cases of radio equipment near John's bed. I looked at the big shielded bench power supply that went into the radio transmitter and amplifier and my eyes followed it's cord to the surge suppressor that supplied power to all of the different electronics. Most of the supressor's outlets were filled with AC-DC converters, those blocky adapters that always take up too much space on your outlet. I stared at one of the cube-shaped adapters and called over to Adam
"Why don't we use one of these "battery eliminator" AC converters and run it off an outlet? Is there an outlet up on the catwalk?"
"I think the outlets got pulled last season, but I know where there's one close- we'll need an extension cord though..."
And so we found a AC-DC converter that gave us the right voltage and soldered it in place of batteries on the car. A short test run with the car trying to drag the converter along the floor confirmed that it ran fine off an outlet. We attached the inflatable penis to the top of the car - now with "Going Down in '94" written on the side in black marker - and threaded the power cable through a length of surgical tubing that would be the thing's "bungie cord". We knew that someone would probably find the cord and just unplug it, but that was a chance we'd have to take.
Weeks later, my alarm sounded at 1:00am. I rolled out of my bunk bed and slipped into dark camo pants, a black shirt, a black fleece jacket, and over that a dark green camo coat. I had been sneaking out of the dorms long enough to know just how could it could get out there, and that being able to blend in was essential. After checking the hall for anyone awake- no one but Koreans cooking god knows what in the bathroom- I slipped down the hall and quickly down the stairs to the first floor. I tapped at the last door on the hall and it opened slightly. Bill, one of my best friends, let me in. He was blessed not only with a first story room that was out of the line of sight of most of the faculty's windows, but one with no screens on his window. He wished me good luck as Boie rolled over in his own bed and helped me get up to the window. After a few seconds of slowly inching through the small opening I dropped down to the soft dirt outside.
Maybe I'm just cautious by nature, but I sat there for a few minutes after moving a few feet from Bill and Boie's window, closer to the alarmed door. If I was caught, they would think that I had defeated the alarm, not that I gopt out through Bill's window. I sat. And waited. Slowly the noises of the spring night came back as the various critters adjusted to my presense. More than once on excursions like this I had been sniffed out by a neighborhood dog, and having a dog bark at 1:30am right outside the dean's apartment doesn't do much good for one's academic career. After ten minutes or so I crawled through the bushes and onto the grass. Ethan and curtis were supposed to meet me right about now to help out, but were nowhere to be found. I figured they must have slept though their alarms. About a hundred yards across from me was the girl's dorm, most of the lights out, only a few people up late. None of the faculty seemed to be awake, all of their apartments were located on the ends of the long, narrow dorm buildings. Between myself the dorms though was a depression several hundred yards longs, stretching from the mansion off to my left all the way to the housing development two hundred yards to my right - the quad. About thirty feet in front of my thr ground suddenly dropped ten feet into the depression, and fifty yards or so on the other side it rose again to meet the girls' dorm. Unfortunately, flood lights near the mansion made sure that the quard was pretty well lit. I crawled forward, hugging long shadows from the bushes and trees, and slithered into the quad. I waited again, seeing if I had disturbed anything, and checking out how the shdows were falling down here. Slowly I moved off and along the quad, following a deep shadow cast by a far away tree. A few minutes later I was near the girls dorm following narrow path through thick pine trees before emerging on Hun Road, the lines of sight between me and any faculty covered by trees. Following the tree line I walked down the road away from the school, the camo covering me from head to toe blending into the pines. I walked right up to Adam's truck before he noticed me. As he hopped out, I frowned. He was wearing a bright white t-shirt and shorts- not exactly low profile.
"Ummm... Adam, you notice how I'm dressed?"
"Well, I bet I could see your shirt from all the way back at the dorm, dumbass!"
I handed him my camo coat and made hime put it on. He actually liked it, and he was probably cold already in shorts and a t-shirt. It was probably in the low 40's. The coat was long and managed to conceal him pretty well. I heaved a sigh of relief. I didn't have to worry quite as much about some neighbor wondering why we were out and about. If they couldn't see us, they couldn't cause much trouble.
Adam and I walked the long way through the woods and approached the school from behind. We made our way through the shadows to the back of the auditorium where we knew that a ladder had been left by the guys working on the boiler room below us. I tested the wieght of the large wooden ladder in my hand as Adam tried one of the auditorium doors. When I put the ladder down it was loud- too loud. I winced and looked at Adam, who wasn't smiling. The doors were secured from the inside, and not even the key he had just in case had worked. We moved to the large door next to the auditorium- one of the main doors of the building- and tried that. No luck. It was beginning to look like this wasn't going to happen at all. Adam was out of ideas, but I had broken into the school building a few times before late at night- they always left something open. We moved down to the lower floor and walked around the school quiety trying doors until we found one near the English wing that was open. We carefully slipped inside the school and made our way to the stairs that lead up to the auditorium. The doors at the top which partitioned the school into sections were locked, sealing off the area holding the auditorium and the school offices fromt he rest of the building. Our bad situation was starting to look even more hopeless. We went back downstairs and tried to figure out a way in. After a few seconds of thinking, Adam started off on his own in the direction of the boiler room. I followed a few steps behind him.
Did I mention that Adam spent four years on the drama tech crew? That was about to pay off.
Adam tried a set of doors behind the Learning Center, doors I had passed thousands of times without thinking much about. I knew there was some kind of storage room in there, but not much else. Adam pulled hard on the doors, straining his arms.
"What's in there?"
"Uggghhh.... Prop room"
I followed the wall back to the boiler room, wondering how else we would get in there. As I looked at some pipes that disappeared into a 2'x 2' passageway near the ceiling Adam came up behind me huffing and puffing.
"There's a door in that tunnel that opens up into the prop room. Think you can squeeze into that?"
Adam hoisted me up and I moved into the tiny space. The floor of the little tunnel was cluttered with scrap metal and wood, and it was clear that it hadn't been dusted out in a long time. As i moved deeper into the blackness, I wondered why I hadn't brought a flashlight, and thought that I probably couldn't turn around to crawl out if I had to- I was in there pretty tight. I moved deeper in, wondering just how long the damn thing was.
"Where the hell is the door?"
"You sure? I don't see anything"
I moved along, my hand brushing against the wall in the total darkness, looking for the opening. After a few feet I found it and tried to look back over my shoulder to see how far is I was- but I couldn't even turn my head.
"Found it!" I shouted back at him. He clapped in mock applause.
With both hands I pushed my wieght against the small door with no luck. I pushed my shoulder against it and it barely budged. There was something working against me on the inside.
I turned as best I could and pushed with my legs, opening the door only a little before it closed again.
"There's something leaning against it on the inside!"
I rocked my legs against the door, swaying whatever was on the other side before thrusting with a final push met by a loud crash. The tiny door yamned open on more blackness and I slid through, glad to be out of that tunnel, even if it meant falling on who knows what in even more darkness. As I slipped feet first into the prop room my face brushed against a string hanging from the ceiling. I grabbed it and pulled, bringing the light on. I caught my breath and looked behind me. A stack of old sets had been leaning against the little door, that's what had been pushing against me. I turned the door knob and let Adam in.
"Easy, right?". Right. I would have liked to have seen all 220 pounds of Adam do that.
Adaam walked to the center of the room and looked up. There was some kind of door there, apparently a trap door to the stage. He took a long breath and sighed before asking me for ideas. I just shrugged. The door was four feet above us, directly over our heads, and about 3 feet by 6 feet. Adam found long pole in a pile of discarded stage junk and held the base. He use it to push up against the door, but could barely budge the trap door.
Something was on top of it.
I moves a small table under the trap door and stood on it, trying to see what was on top of the door through the tiny crack in the door that opened up as Adam pushed on it. No luck. I found a wodden table leg that was part of some set and as Adam pushed I wedged it farther and farther into the crack that opened up. Whatever was on top of the door rolled as we got the door farther open. With a boost from Adam I lifted myself up by my fingertips into the opening we created, not more than 8 or 9 inches high. I could feel the weight of the trapdoor and whatever was on it squeezing me as the table leg wedged into the opening shifted- I wanted to get out of there NOW. I pulled myslef onto the stage with all of my strength just as the door dropped another inch, almost catching my boot. I looked around the auditorium standing on the stage- each of the doors leading outside was braced with a meta folding chair and all of the lights were on. With the huge room sealed most of the day and all night, it was awfully hot in there. I screamed down into the prop room for Adam to meet me at one of the outside doors and looked around as I head him leave the prop room. A few feet from me was the grand piano used in the last drama production. One of it's wheeled legs rested on the trap door. I thought about how it would have felt to have all that wieght crush down on me as I slid up through the stage and winced. Exhausted, I walked down the stage steps to one of the doors and pulled the folding metal chair out of the emergency bar and set it on the floor. I slowly opened the door just as Adam was coming around the corner outside. As he walked in, he felt the trapped heat eascaping around him and looked up at the lights. I knew what he was thinking- somehow the administrators knew something was up. They had locked down the auditorium with chairs on the doors, so they had expected someone would try and get in.
Adam tried to get the ladder, but there was no way we were going to be able to get it inside and on stage without waking up the whole neighborhood. Once again we were stumped. Without the ladder, there was no way for us to get up to the catwalk 30 feet above the stage. We stood on the stage, staring up at the thin plywood catwalk high above our heads. I looked at the curtains, my eyes scanning all the way up to the curtain rail. I gave a big sigh, summoned my strength, and walked over to the curtains. I gripped one in my hand as Adam gave me a funny look. I took a deep breath and jumped up onto the dusty fabric, my legs grabbing at the curtain, my hands pulling myself up.
And that's how I got to be handing on for dear life twenty-something feet above a polished hardwood stage. I climbed up the last few feet and felt one of my hands close around the metal rings that attached the curtains to their rail. My face was buried in dusty fabric, I couldn't get free to see where the rail was. I groped for it, finally grabbing it, and held on as my feet and legs let go of the curtain. I hung suspended with greasy fingers there, trying to figure out where to go next. The catwalk was still ten or fifteen feet away from me horizontally, and about five feet above me. There was no way I could swing or jump to it from where I was. Now, when you're hanging by your fingers up in the air like that, the first thing you think is that old movie cliche- don't look down. Of course you look down anyway. Adam was far below me, and I could see just how far below me the ground was. I came this far, I might as well try and go the whole way. I hung there suspended by my fingers, the rail greasy and slippery in my hands, thankful that the light aluminum curtain rail could hold my wieght. I knew I couldn't hold on like this forever but didn't have any better ideas. I looked out at the catwalk and then back to the curtain and light rails around me, trying to see if there was something I could use to get there. Fixed to the wall about eight feet out from me was a huge wodden box- one of the speaker boxes.
Without much thought I started swinging my feet, gathering momentum. I moved as close to the box as I could along the rail, and felt my grip becoming slick as I was swinging. If I didn't do something soon I would slip right off the rail and fall. So with a full-body thrust I launched myself at the speaker box, catching the edge with my feet and using my momentum to follow through with my upper body, balanced percariously on the edge of the wooden box with my feet. Carefully I leaned forward and hunched down, lowering my center of gravity. My pulse was racing. Adam clapped below, and I breathed deeply. I wanted to get off this thing as fast as I could, it didn't feel every sturdy. I looked out and up at the catwalk. I had cut the in more than distance by half by jumping on the speaker, but it was still above me and too far to reach. I gave aflying leap and caught the edge, the catwalk flexing under my hands, the thin plywood creaking with the stress. I pulled myself up slowly, carefully, wondering if I'd be able to get up there. Finally I did, and managed to calm down. I looked down, the stage far below me, Adam looking back up at me. Of course, I came all the way up here without bringing the actual device with me. Not good. I explained the problem to Adam, it seemed he was still in shock after watching me get up there. He grabbed the long extension cord that we had brought and tied it off to the end of the length of surgical tubing attached to the inflated penis. With a long windup he threw the line up towards me, I tried to grope for it as it hung in midair over the stage, out of my reach. I carefully withdrew back to the into the catwalk, afraid that in trying to catch the line I'd fall over the edge and make a mess on stage. After a few more tries I caught it and pulled up the device. Adam ran and plugged the extension cord in as I set up the car and the penis fastened to it's top, but stopped short- running along the edge of the carwalk was a raised edge, a sill put there to keep nails and things from rolling away and raining down on the stage below. With that there, the car couldn't run off the catwalk and fall over the edge- it would just hit that sill.
I called Adam back from where he was plugging in the extension cord backstage and explained the problem to him. What we needed was a ramp to let the car get over the wooden sill. He raised a hand and ran backstage, determined to find something. After a few minutes he came back with a math textbook.
"Where did you get that?"
"There's a lost and found back there. Drama people are always leaving shit behind."
"I don't think that will work, the penis won't clear the ceiling if it's sitting on that. Is there like a notebook or binder?"
Adam disappeared again and I was left to look out over the edge, my fear of heights still making me very nervous. This time he came back with a flexible 3 ring binder and pulled all of the paper out of it.
After several more games of catch-the-flying-object-without-falling-to-the-stage, I grabbed the binder and set it up as a ramp for the car. With that in place, and the bungie cord tied off securely on one of the catwalk supports, we were ready to test it. Adam flexed the sticks of the radio control and it flew perfectly off the ramp and launched itself into midair before being snapped back by the bungie cord and falling down ten feet- where the giant penis bobbed suggestively out of reach of anyone on stage.
"Cool! It worked! That was so cool, let's do it again!"
I reeled up the giant cock and car device and set it up again, and it ran again, flying off into space perfectly, bobbing erect in midair. After making sure it was set and secure once again, I made my way down the catwalk to get back down.
Now the speaker box wasn't secure in the first place, and now it was going to have to jump down from above and land on it safe and sound. I looked around, then down at Adam, who shrugged. There wasn't any other way, so it would just have to hold my wight, or I'd have to ride it down and hope it cushioned my fall. I jumped out and landed on it, both feet samcking down on the wood, and I swear I felt it lurch down this time. I really didn't want to wait for the two nails holding it up to give way. I jumped out for the curtain rod eight or ten feet away and dropped like a rock, missing it completely. I grabbed the curtain and wrapped my legs around it, sliding down as the energy of my fall was absorbed by the fabric. My hands were burning with the friction of grabbing it. I started to slowly lower myself down inch by inch as I heard the top of the curtain rip and I dropped a few inches. I let go with my legs and slid down the curtains with my hands slowing me, leanding heavily in a heap on the hard stage.
Adam and I cleaned up, then moved to the door to make our escape. Outside we heard low voices, two more more people talking just outside the door. I looked at Adam, he just shrugged. We couldn't go back out through the trap door without making a lot of noise, so the door was the only way. If we were caught, we were caught. Slowly I opened the door, careful to not let the latch make a sound as I pushed on it.
Outside, on the steps leading into the building, were Ethan and Curtis, chatting and smoking. They had been waiting for us, they didn't even hear us inside.
The next day as the end of the year awards assembly. first thing in the morning, the whole school funneled into the auditorium and sat down in everyone's little clique. there were making everyone leave jackets and bags outside, which meant that they defintiely knew something was going on. I moved to the side to let a bunch of other people through as I waited in line to get and and pulled off my jacket, stuffing inside it the controller from my bag, and wrapped my jacket around my arm. As I walked in I dropped my bag outside the door and went by the teacher checking people at the door. I had never been on good terms with the administrators at the schoo, but I guess I wasn't on the list of people to watch for on this particular day. The seats were already full, and I had to take seats with some lower classmen in the back, as the rest of my friends were up front and waving. I nodded, smiled, and sat down. The irony here was that Alex was *part* of the assembly, as part of the student council he sat up on stage. Our eyes met, and he smiled. his eyes darted upward and he nodded. He could set it, it was still there. I looked over at the carefully hidden extension cord following the wall. It was still in place too. So I sat, the arm inside my jacket covered in sweat, and waited.
After more than an hour of boring announcements and awards (even *I* got an award for community service, and had to go onstage resisting the temptation to look up at the huge cock staring down at us all) they were wrapping it up. Alex looked at me from onstage. John, ever the subtle one, turned around and glared at me from one of the front rows. I made sure the battery was in the controller, peered down at the little red light on it, and pushed the cotnrol stick forward.
I worked the controls frantically, cursing myself. Just about everyone who had worked on it looked back at me at the same time. I shrugged. More disturbing, as the room started to let out, a *lot* of people who shouldn't have known anything about it looked at me, stared at me. Someone let the word out, someone leaked and that's why they were making people leave bags outside, why there had been chairs on the doors.
We later found out that the physics teacher who doubled as A/V guy (and who was a great guy) had been checking the microphones early in the morning and heard an odd squaking noise. Radio interference was making the steering servos on the car twitch. He looked up and got the surprise of his life, and later unplugged the extension cord from the outlet, disarming the car. later in the day he got it down with the ladder without telling any of the higher-ups.
[ 12/01/2005 04:54:00 PM ] [