Personal defense anyone can afford

I try, whenever possible, to ignore ringing telephones after midnight. Good news does, after all, sleep in until noon, right?

On the other hand, it’s hard to disregard a large piece of black plastic that continues to jangle insistently about 5 inches from one’s left ear.

I was wrestling with just such a dilemma about 3 a.m. one morning last week when curiosity – and lack of sleep – finally conquered my resolve. I foolishly picked up the phone.

“Wake up, bro, and greet the dawn of personal defense in the 21st century!”

The message seemed rather cryptic but the voice was unmistakable. My old ’60s sidekick, Sapper, was calling from his dockside crash pad in Oregon.

Forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentifiable herbs near Bolinas in 1968, Sapper seldom calls before midnight. His best ideas seem to hit him between 1 and 4 a.m. and that’s when he calls old friends to communicate his latest plan to stock the Great Lakes with ravenous piranhas as a feisty new game fish.

Last week’s call was no different. Sapper had found a safe and inexpensive way for average citizens to effectively arm themselves against thugs, serial killers and, er, rampaging Republicans, without having to resort to deadly force.

“Garbage!” he crowed triumphantly.

“Mmmph?” I responded.

“It’s simple, bro – I got the idea down by that Dumpster where I found my cell phone,” Sapper related. “Until now, if you wanted an ice cube’s chance in hell of survivin’ on America’s mean streets, you had to carry Mace or a .45 or a stun gun or a big ol’ spike-studded railroad tie to protect yourself.”


“But those are bulky and expensive, and sooner or later some cop is going to ask you ‘zactly what you think yer doin’ walkin’ around with a Stinger missile slung over your shoulder,” Sapper continued. “If you’re packin’ my lightweight, 21st-century personal defense bag of scientifically formulated garbage, though, thugs won’t get within 20 feet of you an’ the cops will keep their distance, too.”

The basic personal defense garbage device, he explained, consists of a small, 5-gallon kitchen trash bag “equipped with a quick-release handle and prestressed seams for rapid deployment and maximum dispersal capability” filled with a specially selected assortment of highly aromatic refuse.

“Think about it, bro. A lot of street punks will risk a face full o’ pepper spray or even a knife, but nobody wants to get smacked one upside the head with a sack full o’ fishheads and old coffee grounds and rancid salad dressing,” Sapper explained. “Throw in a couple of my brother’s old sweat socks an’ a rotten grapefruit an’ you’re slicker than a hoop snake in a hailstorm. You’ll own the streets.”

The garbage-based personal defense weapons, he added, have a long shelf life – in fact, the longer the better – and can be easily carried by most adults.

“I’m thinking of pricing ’em at about 25 bucks apiece – maybe five bucks more if you want extra anchovies or maggots,” Sapper added. “So can I put you down for four or five? They could save you life, bro.”

So, I thought, could an unlisted phone number…

Originally published March 30, 2003