A while ago, I was asked to contribute funny radio stories from my career for an upcoming book. I was jazzed. Unfortunately, I didn't make the cut. It could have been the fact that the story I submitted was about farts. Anyone who knows me just a little, knows that my sense of humour is nothing but base and immature...and yes, that encompasses farts. So - since I no longer have no tangible pages on which to share my tale, I will share it with you here and perhaps save this number for my own book someday (Pfft!).
And yes, in case you're wondering, the story you're about to read is 100 % true.
Years back, I bought a radio colleague of mine a gag gift. It was an aerosol can labeled 'Fart Spray'. Designed to generate "imitation fart smell" and of course, subsequent hilarity. At the time, we both worked at the same radio station and decided we'd treat our officemates to an early-morning olfactory assault. My friend strolled casually through the building misting the Fart Spray through the halls.
We were both on the air at the time. Our studios were next to one another. Mine, with a large window facing the front reception area. I giggled to myself, imagining people laughingly throwing blame at one another and trying to peg the culprit who didn't have the decency to at least light a match. What happened instead, was something totally unexpected.
In moments, I saw people scrambling for the outside door. To say their reaction seemed extreme was an understatement. They couldn't get out fast enough! They were charging out of the building - every man for himself - clearly panicked. I saw people with their hands covering their mouths. A few pounded their fists on my window as they flew by, gesturing wildly for me to follow them out.
Turns out 'Fart Spray' bears a strikingly similar smell to that of sulphur. What we thought would be an innocent practical joke turned out to be a perceived gas leak. When I realized what was happening, I tried to communicate through the window that everything was okay, but naturally no one wants to stop and play charades when they're seconds away from being engulfed in an explosive fireball. So, I beelined for my friend's studio where he too had just clued in. Frantic, I told him we had to confess. But before he could open his mouth, our normally sweet and mild-mannered General Manager burst through the door.
The exact words of a man who I'd never heard swear before were, "Get the fuck out of the building, she's gonna blow!"
Now tell me - how can you stop to correct a man (no less your boss) when he has just run back into a ticking time bomb to save your life? The short answer is, you can't. We shut our mouths and allowed ourselves to be herded towards the exit.
That's when I heard sirens.
Three wailing fire trucks pulled up and uniformed firefighters in gas masks poured out. We stepped into the daylight, and as my eyes adjusted, I noticed people. Lots of people. Lining the street, clustered together, chattering excitedly. People in the middle of their tranquil summer workday had been evacuated from neighbouring offices. Finding myself now shoved into the melee, I knew confessing was no longer an option.
My friend faked concern near the front door, quizzing the firemen each time they came out of the building and secretly praying they wouldn't find the fart spray in his locker. I - on the other hand - stood clear of the police tape and willed myself to look innocent. From across the street I watched the firemen shaking their heads in confusion unable to locate the source of the 'gas leak'. I stood with some co-workers making small talk. One guy joked, "Somebody probably just farted". In my nervousness, I laughed harder than everyone else.
After nearly forty-five minutes, a visit from the local TV news and several sweeps through the building, the firefighters concluded that someone had put a stink-bomb in the air conditioning system because the smell was so evenly distributed through the building. Though they couldn't figure out why the fumes didn't make it into either studio.
Relieved, and with a story to tell over dinner, people dispersed and returned to their regularly-scheduled workday. And after almost an hour of silence, our radio stations were back on the air - doors and windows wide open to get some fresh air inside (though the noxious air lingered for a good day or so). My friend and I returned to our respective studios to finish our shifts, feeling a mixture of relief and guilt.
And the irrepressible urge to laugh our asses off.
And that's exactly what we did. After work - clear out of earshot - we laughed til we cried and til our stomachs hurt. We laughed at the absolute insanity of it all. It seemed unbelievable that a harmless practical joke could have gotten so out of hand. And just so we didn't question whether or not it had really happened, the next day, there was a blurb in the newspaper about the 'suspected gas leak' at our radio station.
And that is the single most surreal thing that has ever happened to me. In later years, the 'true' story leaked out to a few people who had been there that day. But by that point our General Manager ("get the fuck out of the building, she's gonna blow") had moved out of the city to work at a different station. Sometimes I think about tracking him down and telling him the truth. I know he'd have a good laugh. Then again, I'd hate to tarnish the memory of his heroics that day..knowing that I knew all along what was going on.
To this day, every time I hear dead air on the radio - I can't help but wonder what's going on behind the scenes. Technical glitch? Did the deejay fall asleep? Or is there a can of Fart Spray misting up a dose of pandemonium? Likely not. But I know from experience that stranger things have happened.