Notes From Tha Cove – Electrocuted
By Bill Boyles
This is the story of how I was electrocuted. Yes, electrocuted. And no, not shocked, or even really badly shocked. We’re talking full-on, having a seizure electrocuted. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was a Level 3, the highest of the Lower Levels, trusted to a point and given certain privileges, but not yet an Upper Level, also known as Junior Staff. In Samoa, one of the questionable “privileges” Level 3′s such as myself had was called Supplies. You see, there were 3 beaches at Paradise Cove, each it’s own separate cove, with rocky points of land between them. Each beach was mostly an independently functioning unit. The point is, my beach, Sinalele (see-na-lay-lay), had over 150 kids at this time. That gives an estimate of 450 kids. 450 teenage boys plus the staff need an enormous amount of food and other supplies to function. And it being that the site chosen for Paradise Cove was not only a beach, but a beach at the foot of a gigantic cliff whose only nod to accessibility was a steep path snaking down the hundred feet or more, that meant that every single thing on the beach from food to medicine to toilet paper to building supplies had to be carried down on someone’s back. The staff looked around to figure out whose back that should be and their eyes landed on a huge pool of free child labor…the boys. So, basically, one sunny, hot day in 1998 (I think) i found myself schlepping supplies down a cliff and schlepping bags of trash back up. I got sweaty, plus not only did I get disgusting trash juice on myself, but also I had to carry down bunches of bananas and got their nasty, sticky sap on myself too. I was entitled to a shower, and even though the showers had no hot water, I wanted my shower bad. Protocol dictated I inform my family’s father, or in layman’s terms I needed to tell the staff member who watched over my group of 15-20 students who did everything together. So I went to tell him. My family was eating lunch at the time. Now, at Paradise Cove, even a simple activity like eating didn’t buy you a break from the craziness. No, no, even while you were eating your ears were assaulted by the playing of stupid motivational tapes like Tony Robbins and Zig Zigler. In order to blast motivational tapes at a bunch of beat-up kids trying to eat lunch, one needs a tape player. And in Samoa, because the electrical current is twice American current, that means one needs a transformer. The transformers were small metal boxes with wires coming out both sides, one side being a male Samoan plug and the other a female American plug. The wires weren’t very long, and so this necessitated placing the transformer on the window sill of the fale (fah-lay), or hut, my family lived in. The only thing was, the fales had no windows. Instead, they just had openings where windows would be. And to keep us from stealing each other’s stuff, the windows had metal chicken wire nailed over them. Stay with me folks I promise electrocution is imminent. So, I was wet and sweaty, the transformer was sitting on the window sill touching the metal chicken wire. And to top it all off, my family had found a piece of scrap chicken wire to put just outside the door so we could use it to scrape the sand off our feet before coming in. The family father was having trouble making the tape machine work. Little did he know that’s because the transformer was shorting out into the chicken wire. I walked up to the hut, stepped on the foot-scraper, and went to lean into the door to tell him I’m going to take a shower. As I leaned, I put my hand on the screen and BAM! All I remember is hearing a really freaking loud humming noise in my ears. I couldn’t move. I was thinking, what in the …. ? Suddenly it hit me: I’m being electrocuted. I tried to pull back but I was paralyzed. I tried to yell, to scream, to tell someone I was being electrocuted, but I couldn’t seem to form the words. Later I’m told I was in fact screaming involuntarily at this time, so loud they could hear me clearly at the top of the cliff. My family thought I had stepped on a nail and was “being a bitch about it”, so no one did anything. I figure that’s why it took over ten seconds for the father to realize what was going on and kill the power. This is where my memory ends for a time, as I am unconscious at this point. But I’m told that when the power was killed, I was blown backwards just like in the movies. I smashed into a rock retaining wall, bounced off it, landed on the very hard, packed dirt main yard, and proceeded to have a seizure. It’s apparently at this point that, in traditional Paradise Cove fashion, someone yelled out, “Let’s pour some water on him!” Instead, everyone, including the staff, gathered around and apparently just watched me seize. Eventually, when I stopped, they picked me up and carried me into a nearby fale and covered me with a blanket. And that’s when I woke up. After several hours they finally took me to the hospital. Every muscle in my body felt sore to the point of being pulled, and I almost had to crawl to get up the cliff. When I got to the hospital, the doctor (who was Chinese) checked me out and then took some x-rays. He tried to explain the results to me, but he only spoke Chinese and a little Samoan. The “nurse” from the program they sent with me spoke Samoan and a little English, and so he would tell her and then she would tell me. It turned out that somewhere in the spasming as I was being electrocuted, hitting the rock retaining wall, and then the seizures, one of my vertebrae had cracked in half, and then slipped up behind another vertebrae. They couldn’t believe I wasn’t paralyzed. They wanted to do surgery right away, but I refused. I wasn’t about to let a third-world doctor operate on me in an open-air hospital. No siree. I don’t know what the program told my parents, but the next day we hit one of our all-time lows in our relationship. They sent me a fax, which was a big deal in a place where mail took two weeks one way. I still remember this fax. To this day if I close my eyes I can see it clear as day. It was in my dad’s handwriting. The first line read, exactly, “Dear Bill, heard you had a ‘SHOCKING’ experience yesterday. Ha ha ha!” and then next to that he had drawn a little picture of what I presumed was me, with my skeleton showing inside my body Return Of The Jedi style, with little lightning bolts coming out me. I quit writing them letters for a time. To this day I have never spoken to my family about it. I just don’t think I can without saying something I’ll regret, since we are in a much better place now. But even now writing this I’m getting heartburn just thinking about it and I feel all lightheaded like I’m going to pass out. My father isn’t like that. What could the program have possibly told him to make him that flip about a situation that very truly almost ended in me being either dead or paralyzed? I guess we’ll never know, since I never plan on bringing it up. But anyway, that’s the story of how I got electrocuted, and this was Notes From Tha Cove.