The Electric Bus
Killing time at the Little Rock Hilton, Danny was telling me about a "shock box" he had rigged up back in his nightclub days.
Using a standard 9-volt battery and a homemade wire coil to step up the voltage, he'd hooked this contraption to the metal top
of his electric piano. When a drunk would lean on the piano to request a song, Danny would step on a footswitch, and the
drunk would jump and stagger away, cussing about a short circuit.
We'd been having some minor electrical problems in our tour bus, so we figured that would be a good cover for some covert
fun. We waited until 1:00 am, when it was unlikely that any of the guys would be going out to get anything off the bus, or see
the bus lights on as we worked.
On almost all buses, there are two metal poles that run from floor to ceiling. They're at the top of the steps, just behind the
driver's seat, so passengers have a handhold as they're entering or leaving. We ran a wire to each one, under the carpeting.
The shock box got mounted under one of the seats at the table in the lounge, and a low-profile footswitch was installed under
the carpet, beneath the table. The result: If someone was touching both poles, (as most people do as they're entering, leaving,
or standing in the front to talk to the driver), then Danny or I could tap this spot on the floor, and give them a helluva shock. It
wasn't dangerous, more like a big jolt of static electricity. We had a great time testing it by shocking each other, laughing at
how the others might react.
The more we talked, the more we realized that this trick was too good to be wasted on a single day. We hatched a plan so
we'd be able to use it for weeks, (maybe even months) without being discovered. First, we decided to use it sparingly, and only
when it was raining. This would fit with the prior knowledge of the bus having electrical problems. Secondly, we'd have to
occasionally shock each other, so that we wouldn't be the only ones not getting bit. We had to be careful, as we didn't want to
get them irritated enough to start tearing the bus apart, looking for the problem.
It was pretty hard to keep a straight face when you'd tap that button and see one of your bandmates jump and yelp like a dog,
but we got pretty darn good at it. Later, in the safety of our hotel room, we'd laugh our heads off at the cursing streaks, and at
some of their wild theories about what was causing the problem. We'd shock visiting DJs, concert promoters, and musicians
from other bands.
After several months, we got a little paranoid that our driver, (who cleaned the bus) might find the shock box under the seat.
So, we had a meeting with Randy, to let him in on the secret. After all, he would get a lot of enjoyment out of it, since he had a
devilish sense of humor, and was always sitting right in front of the poles. As we spilled the beans, he sat with his mouth open,
incredulous. "You mean, all this time, it's been you guys?"
Suddenly, he stopped and said, "Where's the switch?" We showed him, and he burst out laughing. "Well, that explains one
thing." he said. "Last Saturday, I rented a steam cleaner to clean the bus carpeting. The guy I rented it from was standing
against those poles, watching me work. When I ran the steam cleaner up under the table, he hollered bloody murder, said he'd
been shocked! I told him that the bus had some problems, and he decided to wait outside until I was done."