Thursday, April 13, 2017

Staging a fake crash? Make it as shocking as possible, please.


One of the student actors is put through the car's windshield.
I recently watched a group of teenagers act out a fatal crash in front of Ukiah High School, and one of the organizers made tons of fake blood to cover the kids and cars with because she wanted to make the scene look as real as possible.

That was cool.


Because while some might think such displays are too graphic, I think they can never be graphic enough.

When I was in high school, my mother was killed in a car that a 17-year-old boy had driven into the path of a semi-truck. Overnight, the “Hamburger Highway” films we had been giggling at in Driver’s Ed went from silly to unwatchable. But just for me, not for my classmates.

So as I stood next to hundreds of teenagers watching a staged DUI crash last week, many of them laughing as I once did at carnage we knew wasn’t real, I couldn’t help thinking that no amount of fake blood or fellow teenagers writhing in pretend pain could come close to having the impact needed.

Unless you’re in a crash yourself, or you visit an accident scene to find your mother’s shoe on the side of the road, I’m not sure what other visuals could bore the tunnels of pain necessary to keep anyone, let alone teenagers, from making stupid decisions behind the wheel.

Because only six months after seeing the twisted metal that crushed my mother’s legs, I too felt the rush of freedom and power that comes from driving as soon as I got my license. I had it maybe a month before I got pulled over. All it took was two friends in the car and the radio blasting for me to start acting stupid.

But as futile as most attempts to make teenagers grasp the dangers of driving will be, I fully support all of them. Just please make them as shocking and painful as possible, because only those will have a real chance of making a difference.

Such as one aspect of the events staged at Ukiah High School I think might have the necessary impact. It won’t be the wounds oozing food coloring or the boy sprawled on the hood after crashing through the windshield. It won’t even be the boy who gets handcuffed by a California Highway Patrol officer because he was drunk while crashing into another carload of teens, killing two of them.

No, it will be the letters shared between some children and their parents after their deaths.

Twenty-four Ukiah High kids will have “died” after the fake crash when the Grim Reaper pulls them out of their classrooms and their lives for 24 hours. They will make their own tombstones and exchange good-bye letters with their parents.

And those letters might actually make a difference. If their parents can make them understand what a hole they will leave behind, how the adults will grieve for the years they expected to watch their children grow into adults themselves, that might be heartbreaking enough to make some of those children take the responsibility of driving a little more seriously.

And then if they look at all of the other faces in their car and imagine those children’s parents waiting for them to come home as well, maybe they’ll take it even more seriously.

So I say bring on the fake horror. If it saves just one person from the real horror of a fatal crash, it will be worth it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Got something you don’t want anymore? Bet a Trading Time listener will take it.


When our microwave died, I put in the garage and figured it would sit there about a year before I dragged it to the dump. But less than two weeks later, I heard a man on a local radio show who wanted it.

That was cool.

Jay, left, and Alice hosting Trading Time with me listening in.

The show is called Trading Time, a Mendocino County original that airs on KZYX&Z every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. When I first moved to Ukiah several years ago, I wondered why anyone would ever willingly listen to it. Now I never miss it. 
Which is why two Saturdays after the little motor that rotated the glass plate inside our microwave died a fiery death, I heard a man announcing that he was looking for microwaves, working or not, because he wanted to use their parts.

So I called him. “How much do you want for it?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said. “You’re saving me from taking it to the dump. You can have it.”

My husband didn’t want me to call microwave man. He didn’t think it was possible that some stranger would come to our house, pick up the microwave, and then both would disappear from our lives forever.

But I had listened to Trading Time enough to get a feel for the type of people who called in. And I had a feeling that this man would do what he said.

And he did. I gave him our address and told him I’d leave the microwave in the front yard when I went to work. When I came home that day, the microwave was gone. And I never heard from microwave man again.

So, got something you don’t want anymore? Call Trading Time. I’ll bet someone who listens does.

Read more about how the show started and some of its former hosts in this Ukiah Daily Journal story: “The weird, wonderful world of Trading Time.”