Boombox Blowout

Fritz Mueller's jock roommate is driving him up the wall. But this roommate is messing with the wrong nerd...

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Now then, we have discussed it already, but things, their getting all topsy-turvy. The modern day hero is no longer the quarterback or the warrior. Nowadays, everybody wants to see the little guy take it all. And there's nothing better than a story about the revenge of the nerds.

FRITZ MUELLER: My name's Fritz Mueller. I went to college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Carnegie Mellon. So this would've been the mid-'80's when I was a freshman in college, and I had just started there as a math major, kind of geeky with a lot of geeky roommates. I was living in one of the big dormitories on campus. It's a big, old row of cinderblock rooms. In the adjoining room next to mine that freshman year was another student who was there on an athletic scholarship - a jock. And he was really, at that time in my life, like an unwelcome intrusion on my little geek heaven. He had this habit of coming back to his room, and he had a big '80s boombox pushed right up against the adjoining wall to my room. And he had one tape it seemed on that boombox, which was Billy Idol. And he played "Rebel Yell" over and over and over and over and over loud, pouring through the wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REBEL YELL")

MUELLER: I still can't listen to it. Over the course of the first few months of college it drove me slowly insane and filled me with, like, ever increasing rage. And finally one day, I was studying, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I decided I had to do something to cause this to stop. I went down, and I undid the wall plate where the electrical outlet was. And I got into the junction box, and I lifted the hot wire off the outlet thinking that this would cut the power to the outlets and make it stop this horrible noise. Boombox kept going. He had batteries in it. So that just filled me with more anger. Being an electronics nerd, I had a bunch of stuff that I brought to college with me - electronic gear of various types. And one of the things I had in my box was this thing called a buzz coil. A buzz coil is an old ignition coil from really old motor cars.

Before engines had magnetos in them, it was used to generate the high-voltage that goes across spark plugs. So this thing generates in the order of 10,000 volts. And I had this sitting close at hand. So since I'd lifted the hot from the socket and I had the boombox isolated, I thought, well, this is my chance to solve this problem once and for all. Got the induction coil and jammed about 10,000 volts right into the back of offending neighbor's boombox. This had the intended result. It made a really gratifying kind of buzzing crackling noise - kind of a thing, lots of static static noise. It sounded great followed by doormate there going, woah, man, woah. I'm sure the boombox was done. I think I probably took out, like, a clock radio or two down the hallway in collateral damage. And very quietly, you know, put the switch plate back on and pushed my desk back up against the wall and continued to do my math homework as if nothing had happened. Shortly after that, offending neighbor guy moved out to one of the fraternities on campus, and I think everybody was happier with that arrangement.

WASHINGTON: Thanks to Fritz Mueller for sharing his story. Check out his band Vandella on our site. This story was produced by none other than our own Stephanie Foo.

(MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: Now the joke is up. If you liked today's program, the name of the show is SNAP JUDGMENT. And yes, we have the Facebook. We have the Twitter - hours upon hours of SNAP goodness on our website snapjudgment.org. And if you did not like today's show, the name of the program is Car Talk. That's Car Talk. My name is Click and Clack. It was produced in association with those wonderful people at the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe. You know that lady who got up at the open mic and started talking about her cat for 45 minutes despite all that angry screaming from the crowd? Well, look, that was just the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

We're trying out some new material. Go on back next week for the yodeling competition. Many thanks to the CPB. Now if the public and the media meet at the bar one day and they get to talking, you know, and hanging out over the weekends and doing brunch and before their yoga class get to kissing, well, you'd have PRX putting the public in public media - PRX.org. YouthSpeaks so the next generation can speak for itself - youthspeaks.org. And while this is not the news, no way is this the news. In fact, you could find yourself creeping where you know you should not be, wake up in the strangest place in an unfamiliar bed, and you could hear her husband open up the door.

You could jump in the closet only to discover that R. Kelly is already there. You can say, what is going on in here? And he could say, I've got a secret that you need to hear. And you could say, I don't know if this is the right time for confessions R. Kelly. And he could say, I really need to get this secret out of my belly. I thought I could do it, but I can't because I'm drenched in sadness. And you said, why are you telling me this? I am not your friend. I want you to know something that's really going to raise the bar. And R. Kelly says, even though this is not the news, this is NPR.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.