aqua fortis

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mythbusters Volunteer Recap, Part II

Those of you who read my Mythbusters Volunteer Recap Part I, written way back when in February, were clearly anticipating with glee the eventual Part II, in which I could write about what actually happened without releasing any spoilers. Well, several months after the fact, and a couple of weeks after the airing of the episode—entitled "No Pain, No Gain"--here it is. The story of  


So, in Episode I, I talked about my arrival at the studios. After they processed all the volunteers—all women, that day—we waited around in the front room and the hallway to get called in for an individual debriefing before going down to the workshop to participate in the experiment. First things first: everybody met with their house EMT, Sanjay, who asked a few health-related questions to make sure nobody had any heart conditions or anything that would prevent them from taking part. Sanjay is now on my list of awesome top-notch individuals, for reasons which will become clear later in the story.

After talking to Sanjay, I waited around some more, feeling totally out of place among the volunteers—though not due to driving distance, for once. There were volunteers who drove in from San Luis Obispo, so my measly 90 miles seemed like nothing at all. When they called me in for the debriefing, I went into the office where they sat me in the ejector seat from a previous episode and explained what would happen during the experiment. At this point, they also attached a microphone to my sweater.

They told me it would be a pain tolerance experiment, involving submerging my hand in ice water for as long as I could tolerate the pain, up to a maximum of three minutes. I was to tell them when it first started becoming painful, then I was to sit there with my hand in the ice until I couldn't stand it anymore. Then they asked, "do you still want to take part?" Of course, I said yes. EMT Sanjay (not to be confused with Dr. Sanjay) would be standing by to look us over after we finished. We'd be given one of those post-skiing hand warmers to squeeze, to thaw out the frozen hand. It was all straightforward. Anxiety-producing, to be sure—if you're me (not a big fan of being on the "hot seat," here)—but straightforward.

And then I was descending the staircase into the workshop famously shown in Mythbusters episodes from time immemorial (okay, slight hyperbole)--the intriguingly labeled boxes on shelves lining the wall, the worktables and tools, the special chair set up with the glass bowl of ice water for me to be tortured with—and, oh yeah. About eight or ten associated producers and camera crew watching my every move. Cripes.

I got my picture taken with Adam and Jamie—a very cool thing they set up for the volunteers—and proceeded to sit in the, er, cold seat. Time ticked by. Not a lot of time ticked by before I decided that, yes, OUCH, this hurts. And it kept hurting. OK, ouch. Ouch, ouch. Ow. But eventually I got to a sort of plateau where it hurt a lot, but didn't hurt any WORSE. So I sat there for a while, wondering when I should take my hand out. At some point, I realized it just DID NOT feel good. I felt weird. So I thought I'd take my hand out. Not so much because of extreme pain, but because my body was unhappy with me for putting it through this discomfiting situation.

At this point, I was having center-of-attention anxiety and failed to look at the timer to see how long I'd lasted. Probably no more than a minute and a half, but I guess I'll never know for sure. I stepped off the chair, they thanked me, handed me a hand warmer for my hand (which I now could no longer feel), and I walked off camera and into the next room where the EMT told me to have a quick seat.

Here's where I became the problem volunteer. There I was, sitting in the chair, minding my own business, squeezing the hand warmer, when suddenly I felt a tad bit woozy. I felt my hand loosen around the hand warmer, my eyes closing. A moment later, EMT Sanjay was talking to me, asking me very calmly but very concerned, "did you go out on me for a second there?" Me: "Uh, I guess I did. That was weird." "Was it the pain?" "No, no, I doubt that. It wasn't really excruciatingly painful." Not to mention, this was quite a bit after the fact. "Do you have anxiety issues?" Oh. Huh. "Yeah, I guess that could be it."

So we're talking, and he has me relax in the chair for another minute, and then I pass out AGAIN. Just momentarily, not completely—I never dropped the hand warmer or fell out of the chair or anything like that. It was more like I had temporary narcolepsy. For the record, I've only ever completely fainted once before—over 12 years ago—so it's not like this was a regular thing. So then Sanjay busts out the oxygen mask, which is really embarrassing with other volunteers walking through and getting their uneventful post-experiment cursory examinations and me sitting there in the chair with a breathing apparatus. He monitored my blood pressure for a minute or two more, but at that point I was feeling a lot better, I could feel my HAND again, and I was more than ready to flee in humiliation.

Fortunately, this was all off the record, not captured on camera for posterity. Sanjay finally let me go, with strict instructions to go to the cafe next door and eat a sandwich—we figured part of the problem was the fact that I'd eaten breakfast in the car around 7 am and then nothing at all for the next five-plus hours. So, to sum up: Sanjay kicks ass. The Mythbusters rock. And I am apparently a wimp when it comes to not eating for hours and then subjecting myself to physical strain and anxiety.

Although, as a post script, a doctor I mentioned it to suggested that it may have also been A reaction to the actual warming-up process having to do with blood vessels suddenly constricting, or un-constricting, or something of that nature that I don't remember because I'm not a medical professional. That made me feel a little better.

So there you go. How I became the problem volunteer with temporary narcolepsy. But hey: at least I looked normal in the TV broadcast. Not only that, I had more screen time than I ever expected—I wasn't even relegated to the montage. Not too shabby.


tanita davis said...

::jealous. jealous. jealous. jealous.::

You had BETTER have recorded this episode.

That is all.

Yat-Yee said...

You think it's not recorded....

C'mon, not eating for five hours and then subject yourself to anxiety and not even completely passing out? You can get to claim wimp-hood.

Glad you're all right and great anecdote to tell for a very long time!

David T. Macknet said...

Hey, I've been known to pass out with sudden warming, particularly when dehydrated. I hopped in the shower one morning & passed out while tipping my head back to rinse my hair, and I passed out at the gym during the middle of spin class and twitched on the floor. At least the floor was padded there, unlike the shower.

When's the last time you drank anything, would be the question, and had you had a diuretic (coffee)?

adrienne said...

As soon as they said "ice water," I would have been like, "Oh, you know, never mind. I just remembered I have a very important appointment."