The Strangest Thing I Ever Saw In Daytona Beach
So there I was, trapped once again in my multiple-hour Physical Science class at Daytona Beach Community College, wondering why I willfully gave this faceless institution a grand of my money so some blustery Don Zimmer-esque professor could brutally condescend me each week about soil fertility. The year was 1998, but inside that classroom it felt like 14,000 BC.
Alas, this was my second attempt to earn my unexpectedly vital Physical Science credit, so there was nothing I could do but grin, bear it, and try to retain some knowledge of plant nutrition. Remember to write a concept album about boron, I would constantly tell myself (this was back when I thought I was going to be the next Dave Grohl). At least the professor did literally look quite a bit like Don Zimmer. Most days, I just pretended I was at some weird baseball fantasy camp.
Then, with absolutely no warning, something I like to refer to as “The Incident” occurred, and suddenly the entire Physical Science / college experience was validated.
Dr. Zimmer was yammering on about something in his usual can-you-believe-the-shit-that’s-coming-out-of-Utah? kind of way when this six foot tall kid in a silver basketball uniform and matching afro wig sauntered into the auditorium from one of the side entrances. This wasn’t some kind of school pride thing—it appeared this kid had just stapled tin foil to his workout togs. His cheeks, if I’m remembering correctly, were also streaked with blueish paint. But it was that silver afro wig that just set the whole ensemble off. Oh, did I mention the kid was completely stone-faced, like he wasn’t dressed like the literal interpretation of Space Jam?
The interstellar hoops warrior took a seat a few feet away from me and stared straight ahead. By this point, Zimmer had been tipped off by a few student giggles and gasps. He looked up from whatever it was he had been momentarily distracted by, immediately recognized this kid, and tore into an insane rant at the top of his lungs.
“NO! NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! WE DISCUSSED THIS!”
“I have a right to be here,” Afro Kid said assertively. “I have a right to learn.”
“I WILL CALL SECURITY! DON’T THINK THAT I WON’T!”
“Go ahead. I don’t care.”
With that, Zimmer bounded quickly to his back office to summon the campus cops. Obviously, the rest of us were now utterly baffled and somewhat frightened. Nothing this loud or exciting had ever taken place in our Physical Science class. Everyone was looking around with baited breath. What was going on? I locked eyes on this kid, just waiting for more crazy.
Finally, my own personal Soy Bomb! I was totally primed for what I hoped would be some epic, totally-in-my-face insanity.
Alas, Zimmer had called this kid’s bluff. As soon as the prof ran over to call security, Afro Star Child let out a huge sigh, dragged his body out of his seat, and moped out of the room. I never saw him again, and when Zimmer returned to see he had won this game of chicken, no further explanation fell from his spit-addled mouth.
I’m still curious about the backstory here. What did Zimmer and Afro “discuss” prior to his arrival? Were DBCC students not allowed to wear tin foil on campus? I chickened out on investigating the one time I had a personal audience with Zimmer during a fire drill a few weeks later. It was a half-conscious decision. At nineteen, I was starting to learn that sometimes the mystery is better than the reality.
In my mind, Afro Guy was Zimmer’s time-traveling son who had come to warn his father about a pending stock market collapse and/or a killer bee resurgence. Obviously the latter could only be thwarted by a community college professor from Daytona Beach. I’d like to see you try to stop killer bees with your wrench or your baking pan or whatever the hell it is you have over there.
In case you’re curious, I passed Physical Science that semester with a big fat C. Dr. Zimmer’s probably dead now, and Afro Guy occupies a space in my heart roughly the size of Kansas. I hope we cross paths again one day (preferably at a bus station or Jack in the Box).