Club Culture

By the time we’d reached the entrance to the club we were already an hour behind our timetable. This was bad, since our escape route depended on a well-timed rendezvous with an accomplice in an SUV. My cell phone rang on cue. “Kyle? I’m just leaving now, I should be there in about 45 minutes.”

“Damn it, he’s late!” So much for our dependable pick up.

The timing couldn’t be better. If we hurried, we’d be out of this place just in time to leave this corner of downtown Calgary.

In retrospect, I should have known better than to venture into this place with the team I had; a quasi-Goth, a Nintendo-geek, a confused looking farm boy and an Avril Lavigne look-a-like. None of us would fit in very well in this dark, Gap- sponsored nightclub.

“These things are cold!” complained our honourary Goth, Sarah.

“That’s because they were in the freezer, just don’t let anyone see them. They’d tear us to pieces if they suspected what we were up to.”

It seemed as though the petri dishes were proving uncomfortable for their carrier. I was worried that my companions were starting to show signs of fear, so I thought it best to share some inspirational words.

“Don’t be afraid! They can smell fear, if they sense your fear they’ll take you into the back alley and beat you.”

That seemed to do it; Sarah stopped complaining about the petri dishes.

The quest for nightclub bacteria and culture samples had obscure origins. I’ve always loathed this particular social scene, and I’m sure Freud would have had something to say about it. I suppose the stories about people being rushed to the hospital after drinking from the glasses here was what first got my attention.

“I want to take cotton swabs of nightclubs and publish pictures of the growth in the paper,” I told the editorial board.

It seemed as though there was uneasiness about the idea. Apparently not everyone shared my disdain for Cowboys, and some just failed to see the humour.

“You need a microscope with a digital camera,” offered Вen Li, News Editor and only reliable editor with any knowledge of biology.

“And a HAZMAT suit,” I thought aloud. I couldn’t possibly handle such dangerous bacteria, as was found in Cowboys, without a hazardous materials suit.

“They’ll beat you to a pulp if you try and get in with a HAZMAT suit,” cautioned the board.

They might be right, I thought. Best hide the suit when passing the bouncers.

Considering all the trouble I went through to get hold of a HAZMAT suit, I consider it a great tragedy that I never had the opportunity to wear it. It was probably for the best. I could imagine the questions the police would ask when I tried to file assault charges against the bouncers.

“Why were you wearing a HAZMAT suit?”

“Where did you get the suit?”

I wouldn’t dare reveal the supplier of the suit. I saw them sell three unlicensed guns in the course of my 15-minute perusing of their goods. You just don’t piss off people like that.

Once past the bouncers, our brave band was thrust into the thick of the club. We had agreed prior to entry to head straight for a balcony before organizing the tasks that lay ahead. After navigating a sea of scantily clad young women and all the dropouts you never wanted to run into again from high school, I managed to assemble our troupe.

“Alright, get out the latex gloves and zip-locks,” I instructed.

This stage was crucial; we had to swab as many surfaces as possible in the least amount of time without being noticed. But first we needed to blend in, and for that we needed drinks.

“Get me a Vanilla Stoli over ice, and make sure it has a straw,” I said as I handed Nintendo-boy a five. It was best to avoid any potential irony and not trust the cleanliness of the glasses.

The first bag was labeled “Glass,” which proved easy enough. After waiting for the bouncer to finish his round, I hurriedly slapped on a glove and swabbed the inside of the glass.

Success! Our first sample was collected and stashed quickly back into wanna-be-Avril’s purse.

“Alright, we’ll do this in teams of two, no one gets left alone.” The instructions were clear.

The Goth and Avril were assigned the “Bartop” and “Tabletop” zip- locks, while Nintendo, Farm Boy and I guarded our field base.

The washroom samples were collected just as easily. It seemed as though the security here wasn’t too concerned with rogue cotton ball swabbings.

“Of course they aren’t,” I explained to Nintendo, “they’re used to health inspectors giving them advanced notice. They’d never expect a surprise swabbing like this. We’ve got them off guard, but we’re in their territory. We must proceed with caution.”

I’d looked down to finish off my Stoli, only to find that the dish-boy had taken away a half-full glass.

“Let it go,” I cautioned myself, “the dish-boy alone is three times your weight; you’d need to get him on top of the stairs to be effective.” My reason was being affected by this place, and no good could come of it.

The most crucial swabs I’d saved for last. These were the controversial targets. Somehow we needed to find the dirtiest, most “liberal” clubbers we could and get a bacteria sample from them, one male, one female. Weeks of practice maneuvers and mock dance floor scenarios had gone into the planning of this moment. I couldn’t trust this group of mercenaries to carry out these swabs, they lacked the conviction needed, the hatred of what this temple of depravity represented. And so I descended to the dance floor alone, armed with my plastic baggy and a cotton swab.

The impressions I gleamed from the dance floor were scaring. A punishing beat was blaring out in a vain attempt to conceal the crap that was passing for music. Sadly, there was no need to maintain the illusion of needing music. The beat served only as a metronome to the humping that was ongoing on the “dance floor.”

“Excuse me, pardon me, beg your pardon,”

I learned quickly that it’s a mistake to be polite in this place. The staff looks like they’re ready to eat you and the patrons are either too far gone to notice or simply don’t care. Finding my samples was proving difficult. Every time I located a potential target, a rather large Alpha male–in the Discovery Channel sense, certainly not the Huxley sense–blocked any attempt at gaining access. Frustrated and defeated I returned to my compatriots.

“Alright, here, you two go find the samples and bring them back.”

Goth-girl and Avril bravely set off, and 15 minutes later they’d returned victorious. I will never know the ordeal they went through, and thought it best not to ask.

“Holy shit, we’re late again!” Our revised timetable had proven inadequate; the mission lasted three times longer than anticipated. “Is our pickup still there?”

Never have I been so glad to see an SUV. With petri dishes and samples in hand we made an escape to the safety and isolation of this behemoth vehicle.

“You bastards; do you know how long I’ve been waiting?”

I could sense that our driver was not pleased at our tardiness. He had the look of an exhausted predator finding a dying wildebeest. I could sense his rage. My companions wisely chose to sit in the back.

Upon getting home, I quickly transferred all the swabs and placed them in the incubator. A couple of days was all it should take. That was three months ago, and nothing’s grown yet.

“Perhaps I made a mistake in making up the agar,” pondered Ben, my supposedly reliable biologist. His cynicism can be subtle, but it’s not hard to pick out since it’s the only form of expression he uses.

I quickly guessed at why this simple mistake had been made. My section always has the bar ads. Something this explosive would certainly be bad for ad revenue, which means less pages for News. He was clever. He also got a new microscope with a digital camera mount from Texas. Christmas had come early for Ben.

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