It was an exhibitionist day in the neighbourhood when Mortimer Snert arrived at the second annual maker’s faire along with his business partner DT. This year the maker’s faire was held at the faire grounds, in one of the barns. And the venue was just that, a huge empty metal building with concrete floor and a reverb time of about 3 minutes. Now Mort expected it to be noisy, in fact, he expected to be deafened before the show was over. When they arrived, the building was opened, and 47 cars were inside in various stages of having their contents disgorged onto the exhibit floor, and the noise level, while not excruciating, was quite on the loud side. The arrangement there was first come, first served as far as getting a space for setup. So since they were not there as soon as the building opened, at 07:00, they were able to snag a display place that was conveniently located right behind a set of bleachers which was faced away from them, and directly in the pattern of a portable P.A. system which, they would later discover, was turned up to 11. This created an atmosphere which, coupled with the reverb time of the barn, made it very conducive to demonstrating audio equipment.
So they unloaded and set up their display. Now integral into the display was a condenser microphone, which was capable of picking up very minute sounds, and as such, picked up every bit of noise in the entire barn, and shoved it directly into the mic preamp, which was also on demo. Once the cars were outside, and the 12 different garage doors were closed, the building quieted down, almost to the point where you could be heard without shouting. So the faire started at 10:00, and our 2 intrepid exhibitionists braved it through the day, with the assistance of a tasty concession stand hot dog or 2 and some watered down iced tea and a bag of truly healthy potato chips.
All in all, the day was fairly productive, there were a lot of people who were interested in the equipment which was on display, and a lot of questions were asked and a lot of knobs were turned. Both Mort and DT ended up losing their voices from talking so much and from occasionally having to shout over the noise. Things were going fine until about noonish, when there was a science demonstration in front of them, and the bleachers filled with hyperactive kids and their parents, who completely ignored all the shenanigans and were focused solely on their cell phones. So the presenter took up the microphone, which was firmly (wirelessly) attached to the P.A. system, which was still turned up to 11, and proceeded to screech out his presentation at ear splitting levels. Having been set up behind the bleachers filled with people made it impossible to see what was actually occurring, and there were a few die hard souls which were braving the noise and the crowds, so the boys stayed in place and shouted over the science guy and his P.A. system.
Amongst the experiments that the science guy was doing were several involving liquid nitrogen. One specifically involved putting an amount of liquid nitrogen into a 2 liter coke bottle, screwing the lid tightly on, and setting it aside. The guy explained in excruciating detail that at some point, the pressure from the nitrogen would build up to the point that the coke bottle would rupture, and that it would make an explosion, and it would be loud, but that no one would likely die from it. And he explained this several times as he was filling the bottle, which, for some reason took about 5 minutes. So having been forewarned, the audio guys curtailed their demonstrations involving the microphone and the headphones, so that no one would be deafened when the explosion took place.
So Mr. science set aside the coke bomb, and continued with other demonstrations, checking occasionally on the bottle to see if it was about to blow. At one point, he made the comment that the bottle was indeed swelling up, and that it should explode at any second, and then extracted a promise from the crowd that no one would scream like a little girl when this indeed happened. So about a minute later, in the midst of yet another demonstration, the integrity of the coke bottle was compromised, and it failed. The resulting explosion was about the equivalent of inflating a paper grocery bag and popping it with your hands. Mort was sorely disappointed at the lameness of the whole operation, at least it could have frightened people. And indeed, no one screamed when it happened. Eventually the demo concluded, the crowd thinned, and the noise level dropped back to a reasonable level. Amongst the attendees were several high school electronics departments, and amongst these were several kids who were interested in audio, and who had never seen real hand assembled devices, so they began wondering over after Mr. Science was done with his demo. Several were quite interested in the operation of things and asked intricate questions, which the two exhibitors were more than happy to answer. So along about mid-afternoon, a tweeny aged kid wondered by and was interested in the machinery, and since Mort’s voice had just failed, DT took over the explanation. The kid seemed to understand everything that was explained to him, and it finally came down to the blast filter which was attached in front of the microphone. Blast Filter Kid wanted to know what that did and if it was important.
Unbeknownst to our exhibitors, and in fact, most of the attendees at the place, there was at that time another science demo going on, but minus the P.A. system. Mort, who was sitting at the table facing towards the back of the bleachers, and the rack of equipment where DT and Blast Filter Kid were having a discussion, noticed a cloud of condensation, which was consistent with the application of liquid nitrogen to some unknown substance, arise from somewhere in the science area. He thought nothing of it, since there was no deafening P.A. thing going on, and refocused his attention back on the discussion of blast filters.
It was about this time that Blast Filter Kid wanted to know what the difference between blast filter and not blast filter in front of the mic was, so DT handed him a pair of headphones, showed the kid where the volume control was, moved the blast filter out of the way and started to say into the mic, this is what it sounds like when you pop a p into a condenser mic. Except he didn’t get that far. It seems that the second science demo also included a coke bottle filled with liquid nitrogen, and at the exact same time that DT popped the 3rd p into the mic, the coke bottle detonated with such force that Mort felt like someone had hit him in the chest with a sledge hammer. All the windows shook, all the garage doors rattled, everyone in the whole place jumped about a foot, and there was a collective intake of breath from everyone there, and then dead silence, except for the reverb of the explosion. And all the force of the detonation went directly into the condenser mic, through the preamp and the associated equipment and straight into the kid’s headphones at a deafening level.
Mort was observing this whole process from the safety of the far side of the table, and as the dust settled, looked up to see Blast Filter Kid frozen in place, white as a sheet, with his hands clamped onto the headphones. After several seconds of being in shock, the kid ripped the headphones off, and a series of expressions rapidly flicked across his face, starting with, ok crap, I think I’m going to die here, followed by, you did that on purpose, you bastard, to, I’m going to rip your head off, and concluded with, ‘scuse me while I go clean out my underwear. By this time DT was at the kid’s side, trying to apologise, and kid turned, flung the headphones in DT’s general direction, and bolted into the crowd with his hands over his ears, never to be seen again.
The whole sequence of events, coupled with about 2 hours of sleep the night before, and spending most of the day on his feet, and being so tired that he was loopy, conspired to make Mort feel that this was one of the funniest things that had happened in a long time, and although he felt slightly guilty, because he knew the kid’s ears would be ringing for a good long while, Mort couldn’t help himself, and burst out laughing like a madman. DT, who had not necessarily seen the kid’s face when the blast happened, also was quite amused by the timing of events, and shared the humour. This was the topic for discussion several times throughout the rest of the show, and was always as funny as the first time. So that became the high point of the day, and although the show lasted another couple of hours, nothing else happened to top that. The show finally ended, and the stuff was packed, but the boys were certain that the episode with the Blast Filter Kid would remain etched in their minds from now on.