Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tanning beds declared bad for whales

When some group of researchers tells me not to eat movie popcorn or warns against pressing a cell phone to my brain, I usually acknowledge the advice by feeling badly the next time I’m at the theater munching from a “Keg O’ Corn” while talking loudly on my Blue Tooth during the critical scene where we find out that she was a man all along.

On the other hand, the latest pronouncement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer declaring that tanning beds cause cancer doesn’t worry me. I’ve never been on a tanning bed. Don’t see the point in it. A tanned fat guy is still a fat guy.

I did get an MRI one time. I assume that tanning beds offer a similar experience, except without that banging noise.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot. I visited a tanning salon a few years ago to do a segment for my cable access TV show, but I tested out the spray-on tanning booth. This is a high tech version of lathering on the Coppertone QT.

I stripped down to my skivvies, donned a shower cap, and pushed the start button. I was told to keep my eyes shut and hold my breath while the machine puffed out a fine mist of human body stain, aka dihydroxyacetone (DHA). When I emerged from my treatment, I was still the same color, best I could tell. The attendant told me that the “bronzing effect” would take four to six hours.

Sure enough, I changed colors that afternoon. Not exactly to a George Hamilton-like tan. More like the difference between two abutting color samples on those strips you get at the paint store. Subtle is a good description of my transformation.
* * * * *
It was a perfect beach day on Cape Cod yesterday. Thousands of people headed out to enjoy the sunshine and salt air. I considered doing the same, but I have a recurring nightmare about being out on the beach. It goes like this:

I’m walking from the car down to the beach carrying my beach towel and sporting a pair of flip flops. I find the perfect spot and spread out the towel. Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale is playing on the radio (clearly a not-so-subtle reference to my milky white skin tone). I lie down, place a cool wet rolled up cloth across my eyes, and wait for my tan to start.

A few minutes later I hear some commotion going on a short distance away. One guy yells “Don’t go near it!” while another one says that he’s calling the Cape Cod Stranding Network (CCSN). A little girl asks “What is it?” An authoritative sounding woman declares that it’s a rare albino baby right whale.

Pulling the cloth from my eyes, I squint from the sun and peep in the direction of the ado. The CCSN van pulls up and a team of vegetarians jumps out carrying a variety of mammal rescue equipment. Racing towards me, it’s only then that I realize that they’ve mistaken me for the rare albino baby right whale.

I try to get up, but can’t. I try to speak, but can’t. I am helpless on the beach, unable to move. The bevy of skinny, wetsuit clad activists hovers over me discussing alternatives while one of them dumps a bucket of water on me every minute or so.

The group of experts parts, revealing the approach of another man wearing a smock with the word “Euthanist” on the back. About the time he draws his hypodermic needle full of a red serum, I wake up.

Bad dream. And a pretty good reason not to mess up my Gibson Girl complexion.

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