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Editor’s note: Due to Officer Alex’s computer going up in flames, we are running a “Best Of” from a few years ago. Salud!
I don’t work the geographic area of Chattanooga known as “Hixson.” My distance from it is very intentional, but for once I had a reason to go there and I was afraid I might miss it. It was after midnight and winter was giving us a sneak preview, cold air gusting past my cruiser as I rolled through the hills of Hixson’s southern gates of North Chattanooga, waved on by herbally slackened guards, stared at by the psilocybin-filled lookouts, and avoided completely by the ultra-paranoid Lysergic Acid Diethylamites. I reduced speed to navigate the treacherous and speed-camera-laden curves that often belie Hixson’s air of gentility, and as I did so I blew past dozens of places with dozens of bad memories from a dozen years ago…but once I got there, I realized I’d have made the trip twice. Who am I kidding? Ten times. A thousand.
Don’t get me wrong about Hixson. It’s not that I am too good for it; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I simply have no idea how to work there at all and my attempts to do so and relate to its indigenous peoples have consistently resulted in failure, but the events unfolding there tonight were, like me, “East Lake” to their core and I simply had to see it. I was even surprised (such a rare and delicious event in itself!) that when I arrived, I not only saw my destination…I smelled it. Take it from me, Constant Reader: Little else catches your attention like a man on fire. It was freakin’ amazing. (In an awful way, of course.)
He was writhing and smoldering at the base of a large electrical transformer, ironically separated from our help by the very thing (or things) that were supposed to have protected him from his current situation in the first place: Two large-ish cyclone fences and a shitload of common sense.
Our Man of the Hour had, at current guess, cut through a security fence that cordoned off a residential electrical substation from the rest of the world. The fence itself was capped with barbed wire and festooned with worded and pictographic signage indicating the inherent uncoolness of molesting the objects contained therein. Unambiguous words like “DANGER” and “HIGH VOLTAGE” and “REALLY?” were plastered all about the station, reinforced by Paleolithic-era cave painting style stick figures experiencing shock and agony for the literary impaired. (It was Hixson, after all.)
In case this failed, the wise engineers even added a second cyclone fence to underscore the importance of not licking or otherwise rubbing on such dangerous machinery. Such was our Human Yule Log’s determination, however, he didn’t even bother cutting this one open. He just climbed over it and began digging up his intended prize: The copper wire that served as the electrical transformers’ grounding circuit. Then, so focused was he on his $3.14-a-pound booty, that after he pulled it from the ground, he climbed atop the multi-ton device which it had uncoincidentally electrically grounded, and so marked the last of many, many poor decisions this night.
It was there that he failed to complete a job application, but gloriously managed to complete a circuit, and in the process discovered the difference between state law and “Ohm’s Law”: You can fool one, but never the other. And like an angry woman or Africanized bees, a General Electric polyphase transformer suffers no fools. He became what I call an “electronaut”, riding a white-hot flash of glory into pages of history over which the great Darwin himself would have smiled.
Allow ol’ Alex to briefly explain: It takes around 100 milliamps to stop a human heart. This device channeled somewhere between 13,000 and 33,000 volts, hence bypassing such pedestrian symptoms as muscular contractions and going straight for cardiac arrest and heat transference that was of such a magnitude his skin likely caught his clothing on fire (instead of the reverse, which is my normal experience in such). It was incredible to witness, even as firefighters finally cut through the fence to get to him. He survived a phenomenal six hours in this condition. What a fine death.
My time and column length are short, but know this: Do not mistake my mindset for cruelty. I am incapable of such, a human robot with shit for a soul, as cops are viewed. I just appreciate what happened as being a pure statistical anomaly. And as it further happens, I deal with statistical anomalies by “getting really excited and chatty about it.” See? Don’t try to get me fired over this bit, too.
After it was all over, I eased back to my district, obsessing over Mr. Crisp’s last-minute journey at the speed of light, and in truth haven’t really stopped doing so since then. But I have to admit: Hixson just racked up some “Cool Points” in my book.
See? I’m capable of changing my mind, “shocking” as it may be. What a night.