Chemicals in the Mall

There is a general complaint that nothing exciting ever happens in Humboldt County.  There is some validity to that complaint.  We have a population of pot smokers who love reggae.  How exciting could it possibly get when that is your demographic?  A bong breaks or there's a protest over homophobic lyrics or something.  Breathtaking.  Today, however, the lack of excitement reached new lows of boredom with an incident that could've been ripe with possibilities.

A hazmat team.  The Bayshore Mall.

No, Al Qaeda didn't strike.  (Though, if you folks are looking for targets, I have a list I'd like to give you.) F.Y.E., that poorly named "entertainment hub," wasn't running some kind of promo that went south.  Instead, two people near the Kay Jeweler store (jewelry for boring middle class folks) reported some kind of exposure to chemicals that left them with rashes and sore throats.  The Times-Standard, your home to stories on pedophilia, reported this around two, while KIEM (the network Jim Bernard built) mentioned that it was an exposure in Kay Jeweler to something that may have been pepper spray, and that a few people needed medical attention.

Yawn.  A chemical scare in a shopping center should always be a somewhat exciting story, but this happened with all the passion of a Masterpiece Theatre introduction.  There wasn't even any good speculation.  An angry customer spraying the display cases.  A disgruntled employee sending off a shot or two into the air ducts or swabbing the door knob to the office.  A political protest against blood diamonds.  Anything!  Instead, there is the usual collective shrug of the shoulders and the incident will be forgotten about in a week or so.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Pot.  Short term memory loss.  People have already forgotten about it.

Irritants, both organic and chemical, are great ways to send a message.  Be it hot sauce gently placed on the door to the men's room, or a piece of raw chicken hidden somewhere in a room.  They can wreak havoc and be hard to detect.  By the time anyone realizes they are there, it's too late.  Just ask Japanese subway riders.  They can tell you.  Well, some of them can.

Instead of worrying about this, though, the news is reported with little in the way of how the hazmat response was or what the cause could have been.  Accident?  Attack?  Revenge?  It doesn't merit a mention.  In fact, a chemical exposure story that brings out a hazmat team and requires medical attention (warranted or not) is reported on the same level as an announcement from the rotary club.

The exposure was probably nothing.  Not a test run for terrorists.  Not a customer pissed about being overcharged for bland jewelry.  Not an employee upset over a performance evaluation.  It was probably just a mistake.  A woman bumped her purse against a counter and some pepper spray went off.  For a moment, though, upon hearing the news, I thought something exciting could've been happening.  Not earthquake exciting or even Wayne Adam Ford exciting ("Hi.  I'd like to turn myself in.  I've been offing women.  Here's a breast."), but exciting nonetheless.  Protesters over the proposed Wal-Mart.  An out of control going out of business sale at Border's.  For a scant few seconds I thought, "Finally.  Something of interest.  The hazmat team gets to actually do something other than clean up a meth lab.  The mall gets covered in the news for something other than a store closing.  And Humboldt now possibly gets to join the ranks of places like Halabja, only on a smaller scale."  Reality came back to me, though.  Even if it were some kind of attack, our local authorities would be too dumb to realize it, and our reporters too lazy to cover it.

Eh, it's Humboldt.  Nobody cares.

No comments: