Monday, November 09, 2009

Thank God It Was the 90s

I've been sitting on this story for a while now. I'm sure it will entertain, but considering the nature of it, I've always been a little hesitant to share it in this fairly public medium. See, in high school, I have reason to believe that I was on an FBI watch list for domestic terrorists.

It all started when I was in high school and I went to the post office to get a PO box for me and my friends to share. I'm not entirely sure why I decided this would be a good idea. Perhaps it was because I wanted to get porn without having to worry about my parents finding it in the mail, although I never actually ordered any porn, so that seems unlikely. More likely was that I wanted a separate address for the two e-zines I published at the time and it would give me a little more privacy with my mail order purchases of CDs. There was no real need for this, but I was a teenager. I hid things from my parents I didn't even need to hide.

This in itself was no problem. I'm now a little surprised that the United States Postal Service just allows teenagers to rent boxes like that, but they did. The problems started when the only box number left was 666. This is a superstitious area, so why the local post office had that number at all is strange. A lot of tall buildings don't even have a 13th floor. Why does the post office have a PO Box 666?

Next came the bombs. First, one of my friends had a demolitions supply catalog shipped to our PO box and I brought it to school to give to him. Unfortunately, during band class the catalog slipped behind my saxophone case and the assistant band director found it later in the day. Considering the facts that many of the items for sale in the catalog were intended to blow things up, my friend had used the name James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, and the address was PO Box 666, he felt the need to turn this in to the administration.

The next day we were called into the office and had to talk to the school resource police officer about the situation. Nothing really happened to us. We were excellent students who never got into trouble and I honestly think my friend got the catalog entirely to satisfy his curiosity. Seeing whether they'd send a catalog of explosives to a 16-year-old may have been the main goal, even.

The scarier bomb-related instance had nothing to do with the PO Box, which we discontinued after the demolitions catalog incident. This instance had to do with the bombing of Wal-Mart. Most of my friends were in the band and on the afternoon before we were to leave for a road trip, a couple of my friends and I drove over to Wal-Mart to waste some of the time we had between the end of school and the time we had to be back to load up the buses. When we got to the store, the power in the building was out, so we got back in the car and drove away. So far, so good. It wasn't until the next Monday when we were called in to the police station to be interviewed by a detective for the bombing of Wal-Mart that we even knew anything had happened that afternoon. Apparently, not long after we left, someone pulled up to the front of the store, opened their door, and rolled out a two-liter bottle containing aluminum foil and an acidic cleaning product that exploded next to the lawnmowers.

Now, I will say emphatically that we had nothing to do with this. In fact, we didn't even have to get our stories straight because we just had to tell the truth of what happened and the stories would already be straight. The informant who fingered my friend as the one who had been driving said the car had driven past the front of the building, slowed down, and then had driven out the side entrance. We had parked near the back of the parking lot and had just gone straight out the front entrance without ever passing near the front of the builidng. We were as innocent as could be in the case...

Except that we had been messing around with similar explosives using aluminum foil and household chemicals. We'd heard about some of our classmates getting probation for making these things and then sticking them in people's mail boxes. We agreed that was pretty stupid, but thought trying them ourselves would be smart. I can't really vouch for my practical intelligence during this time period. Anyway, we were cowards, so we used 20-oz bottles instead of two-liters and we always made ours out in the woods as far away from people and pets as possible and we only made a handful on one occasion. I'll admit it was stupid because there was no way to know exactly how long it would take the thing to blow or any way to stop it if something or someone got too close while the pressure inside was building, but it's too late to change that now. By the time the Wal-Mart thing happened, we'd not even thought about these things for months. Combine that with the fact that we'd gotten caught with a demolitions catalog a year earlier and the fact that we had nothing to do with the bombing felt a little irrelevant. I was already a blossoming liberal. I didn't exactly trust the legal system to not wrongly convict me. I mean, if they could put an innocent guy on death row on occasion, they could surely put me on probation for a bomb I didn't make. After all, we had been there around the time of the incident and an eye witness had identified our driver by name as having driven the group of people who did this.

Luckily, the detective believed us and let us all go without any problem. It helped that the eye witness was known by the cops to be untrustworthy on occasion. We were lucky with the timing, though. I'm not so sure the cops would have been so lackadaisical had this happened in 2002 instead of the late 1990s. Unfortunately, I've always had the feeling that my dad really didn't believe us, but didn't really care. That always struck me as a little weird.


courtney said...

Ha, that is damning evidence against you. I'm honestly a little surprised the police just let you go, given your past pyromaniacal tendencies. Did they ever catch the real bomber?

Jacob said...

The detective (and every other police officer in three counties) was a friend of my dad's. That might have had something to do with it. Also, I seriously think the fact that we were telling the truth would have been fairly obvious after they interviewed us separately. Also, we never mentioned the fact that we had made those things before. They didn't ask, so that part just made me nervous. It didn't affect their opinion.

I have no idea if anyone else ever got caught.

Cj said...

I dunno how I never knew about any of this at the time. I've heard you talk about it since. I'm a little disappointed that I was never included in any bomb making though.

Julie said...

We were able to do lots in the 90's that you couldn't get away with now.

I am female so I never had a real desire to blow things up but my friend and I did log into a classmate's email (her fault, I maintain, for not changing the password) and send her emails from herself that said "I'm watching you." it seemed harmless to me at the time but it must have freaked her out because she went to the administration.

Sending someone a vaguely threatening email these days would probably result in ISS or something.

A Free Man said...

I had to have an FBI background check in order to get my Australian visa (though strangely not my UK visa). I was worried that I may have a record for similar reasons as you. I was clean though.

Chris said...

Coke bottle bombs, huh... I guess it really was boring to grow up in South Georgia, wasn't it?

Who am I kidding? I had a terribly boring childhood, but I was too sheltered to ever make friends with kids who were interested in homemade explosives.

So, the drug dog selected my car for a random search once during high school. That's the most exciting story I've got.