The Electric Bus II
The shock box was such a success, we decided to try another electrical gag. This one involved the dome light, which is the
ceiling light just above and to the right of the driver's head. It's to light the cab, either when people are getting on or off, or for
the driver to look at a map. We opened the driver's control panel, and ran a set of parallel wires off the dome light switch. We
snaked them through the upholstery and up under another seat in the lounge, where they were soldered to a switch. Now the
driver could turn the dome light on and off, and so could we.
Again, we started very slowly. One night, on the notoriously bumpy Pennsylvania Turnpike, Danny reached under the seat,
and with his hand on the switch, waited for a good bump in the road. When we hit one, he'd flash the dome light on, just for
an instant. After the second or third bump and flash, we could hear the driver muttering "...crazy thing's got a short in it..."
The next night we continued, and ramped up the frequency of the flashes. At one point, Danny was flashing it in time with the
thumping bass of Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" on the bus stereo. The driver remarked, "Look at that, will ya? The sound
waves are vibrating that thing and makin' it come on!"
A few nights later, I had a brainstorm. As a former psychology major, I thought it would be great fun if we could teach the
guys a "learned behavior", the same way you teach a rat to negotiate a maze. The plan was this: I would sit in the jump seat,
(next to the driver) and shoot the breeze with him, as I often did. After 30 min. or so, Danny would flash the dome light a few
times, then turn it on and leave it on. I would get up and, looking annoyed, bang the ceiling next to the light with my fist. When
I did this, Danny was to turn the light back off. We executed this perfectly, and about 20 minutes later, did it again.
The next night, it was time to test the subjects, and see if the seeds had taken root. Roger, (our guitarist), was in the jump
seat, and Danny flicked the light a couple of times, then left it on. Randy, (the driver) looked up at it and immediately said,
"Hey Rog, do me a favor. Hit the ceiling next to that light. It's got a loose wire or something." Roger stood up and pounded the
ceiling, and Danny instantly flipped the light off. Danny turned to me, and in a quiet, robotic voice, said, "Subjects are
responding well to behavioral conditioning."
Soon, no matter who was driving or who was in the jump seat, the whole entourage had trained one another to hit the ceiling
when the light came on.
Just like rats in a Skinner box.