A bunch of shitbags try to stuff themselves into a phone booth. The same bunch of shitbags fail.
From an article found at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/26/DDGQ16N0HD.DTL
History calls, but kids can’t beat ’59 record
Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009
But it did, and with the Plexiglas went the dreams and aspirations of a whole lot of St. Mary’s College students.
Some said they were disappointed. Some were too squished to say anything.
What happened Wednesday on the campus greensward was the re-enactment of the famous day in 1959 when 22 St. Mary’s students crammed into a phone booth and a Life magazine photographer snapped a picture of the spectacle.
That photo became an icon of the 1950s, an idyllic decade when people had little to worry about besides how many students could do something pointless at the same time. That, and the world blowing up.
Fifty years later, dozens of St. Mary’s students were lined up on the lawn before the booth, intent on breaking the record. Also on hand were several former students who had been in the booth in 1959 as wild-eyed teenagers and were now wizened grandpas.
And keeping an eye on everything were one doctor, two nurses, two paramedics and a sergeant of police. It would be bad, Dr. Ali Rezapour confided, if someone suffocated in the midst of all the merriment, and, as a medical professional, he was most eager to prevent it.
“Let’s do some stuffing,” said college President Ron Gallagher to the large crowd of alumni and students who had gathered to watch what passes for history in Moraga.
It was not easy to cram into a phone booth 50 years ago, and it has not gotten any easier. In the first place, there are no longer any phone booths around, and the college had to dig one up from storage in a warehouse in Los Angeles, a town full of useless stuff. Many of the students confessed that they had never been inside a real phone booth before.
The booth was trucked to Moraga and modified for the stunt – someone installed a comfy throw rug, of all things, and also removed the actual telephone, the lamp, the fan and the seat. The glass windows were replaced with shatterproof Plexiglas, for safety.
That made the grandpas feisty.
“There was a real phone in ours, and it took up some space,” said Ted Tsukohara, now a professor of liberal arts at the college. “I’m not sure you can call it a phone booth if it doesn’t have a phone. Maybe we better ask Superman.”
The big moment
And then it was time for the students to start cramming into the booth. After a few practice rounds between members of two campus clubs, those participants still breathing were selected for the record-breaking attempt. Student Sam Westermann, the president of the spirit club, kept a running body count.
“One!” he hollered over the loudspeaker. “Two! Three!”
Various strategies were employed and, before long, nearly everyone was screaming advice about something nobody knew anything about.
In the first round, the kids tried an elaborate configuration with the first three students making an arched bridge with their bodies and two others crawling underneath. It looked plenty scientific and space-saving, but it left one of the arched kids hollering. After a few moments, everyone piled out. Then they crawled back in, head-to-toe this time. As before, the young men and ladies pressed together in the booth kept their hands to themselves and tried to remain focused on the task.
“Thirteen! Fourteen! Fifteen!”
Rezapour was on his knees just outside the booth, watching the kids on the bottom through the Plexiglas and demanding to see upturned thumbs from all participants, even those whose faces were lost in the pile.
“Keep breathing!” hollered Rezapour, never an unsound piece of medical advice.
But that configuration maxed out at 19. The students piled out and, after a brief huddle, said they would try it one last time, while the grandpas held their breath. Most of the grandpas, while saying they wanted to see the kids succeed, were none too keen about giving up their record.
And many of them took pains to point out that too many legs, arms and business ends were dangling out of the phone booth door this time around.
“They seem to have a lot more appendages hanging out of the booth than we did,” sniffed Ray Motta, one of the 1959 record setters.
For the final attempt, the kids threw out strategy and simply flung themselves into the booth head first, like a pile of puppies or rugby players. It caused maximum numbers and asphyxiation.
“Nineteen! Twenty! Twenty-one!”
It was then, while Rezapour was frantically tallying upturned thumbs, that disaster struck. Although a half dozen beefy students had been employed to hold in the sides of the booth from the outside as the stuffing progressed, they were not strong enough to prevent a large sheet of Plexiglas from coming loose from one wall of the booth. Arms and legs spilled through the hole, and a metal support beam gave way just as the 22nd student was flinging herself into the booth to tie the record.
“Get out!” somebody screamed. “It’s breaking apart! Everyone get out!”
The students clambered to safety. The poor phone booth looked like Dorothy’s farmhouse after the cyclone.
And then everyone tried to figure out whether the record had been officially tied or if the collapse of the booth meant that it didn’t.
“I say we tied it!” said Stephanie Goff, 19, who had been halfway up, somewhere on the left side. “This is what college is all about!”
But the grandpas said a broken phone booth is even less of a phone booth than a phone booth without a phone, and that the only reason the 22nd student could squeeze in is because several of the body parts in the middle had squeezed out through the hole created by the broken Plexiglas.
About the only thing everyone could agree on was that St. Mary’s, which had gone coed since the days of the 1959 stuffing, was now a far more interesting place to engage in phone booth stuffing or anything else.
“When we did it, it was all guys,” said Don Dorito, who had been on the bottom layer in 1959. “We didn’t have any girls in the booth with us. If we could have, we might have got a lot more than 22 bodies into the booth.”
E-mail Steve Rubenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page F – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle