The chemicals between us.

I suppose this post needs some context. I’m rearranging my warehouse. Well, I’m folding one into the other. I have two warehouses, right next to each other. In reality I have far too much space, and that’s made me super inefficient over the years. Lately its been upsetting my German-ness. I’ve also trimmed down my product lines somewhat and changed the scope of my business. In any event all this space feels excessive and wasteful.


Joeys racks.

Being paranoid I run two independent asymmetrical security systems in my warehouse. One of which is a pepper fog system. One of my forklift drivers clipped a pallet which graunched a cable leading to a passive sensor which (I think) caused one of the gas canisters to expedite its load into the immediate atmosphere.

I’m still not fully recovered. Damn. I’ve been tear gassed before, about twenty years ago. In the Commando (the day after my birthday) we were corralled into this rusty 40ft container. You have your masks on. Then a corporal or a sergeant pops off a tear-gas grenade and you have to gut it out for a minute (or however long it was). After that someone blows a whistle and  you rip off your mask and leave the container (just so you  get to experience what the full effect is like) Outside they had this trough made from a doubled over plastic tarp with water of a dubious hygienic quality with which to rinse your eyeballs and larynx. (not super helpful) After that went for a nice gentle jog up the hill, because well, sadism.

You know when you’re watching a riot on tv where some youthful individual runs forward with a wet towel wrapped around his head, picks up the 40mm tear gas round and throws it back at the police line… that always impressed me. (because clearly its your first time and obviously in your country you don’t fear the police)

A security branch policeman with a lot of riot experience during Apartheid once explained to me that that didn’t really happen in South Africa. Once the police started using tear-gas they were done playing and you should really consider going home. Picking up a canister and throwing it back was considered a severely life limiting move, which meant either one of two things. Either there was a 40kg fur projectile in your immediate future (apparently the GSD’s weren’t affected by CS, although I don’t actually know if that is true) OR the young crack-shot (who had grown up hunting Gemsbok barefoot in the Kalahari) on top the Casspir with his FN-FAL would put you down with a 7.62mm to the head.

This was all WAY before my time. My Commando experience was (in all honesty) spent mostly drinking. And then falling out of a Aerospatiale SA 330 Puma when my stick was being deployed to assist in a police operation. (totally less dramatic than it sounds). Topping off my list of embarrassing endeavors was chasing down suspected livestock* thieves at 2am in the morning through the veld and running straight into a telephone pole** and almost knocking myself unconscious. Sheer awesome.

*livestock sounds better than pigs. But they were stealing pigs.

**in my defense it was almost pitch black and pole was painted with bitumen. (although maybe I mean carbolineum. That black stuff they use to water proof)


This is the only surviving photo I have from that time. Pre-digital camera. The uniforms changed from Browns to Flecktarn soon after this.

Anyways, I think the point I wanted to make is that tear-gas really sucks. This pepper fog this morning felt way worse. I don’t remember tear gas getting in your skin like that. (although its been a while) I thought initially that my staff were just being dramatic. Toughen up people. It was only one canister and the warehouse is two thousand squares with high ceilings. Coughing, spluttering, tears and snot running down my face has changed my mind somewhat.

Its made me less keen on rearranging things and being productive today. So instead I have retreated into my office (ostensibly to feel sorry for myself) with a roll of toilet paper, a cup of coffee and uberEats on their way.

Hmmm… There’s a delivery truck parked outside my window. They’re collecting something. I don’t normally take much notice… only these barrels are marked…


“Does it strike you as weird that they are transporting phosphorus on the back of a flat bed truck’, I say to my sales manager, who distributing our uberEats order. She shrugs. ‘South Africa’.

I google the UN 1381 number.

UN 1381 – Spontaneously Combustible Class 4.2

Having already had my fair share of chemical fun this morning. I don’t really feel like pushing my luck. I think I’ll take my tuna-mayo-avocado upstairs for now.