This one is long overdue. As most of you Amigos remember, during the first couple of years of my college career (1992-1993) I lived at a JC in Rocklin called Sierra College. Though I didn’t think so at the time, in retrospect it was actually a pretty decent place. I’ve explained previously why I was there, so I’ll spare you the details here.

Anyway, the dorm facilities there were (and still are) split between two buildings. The main one was pretty much what you’d expect, while the second was a single-story, L-shaped structure that was half classrooms, half dorm rooms. For my first year there, I lived in this second building which was called “U Hall” for some reason.

U Hall was a funky place to live. When the campus was first built in the early 1960s, it had been the original dormitory – and by the time I got there thirty years later, it hadn’t changed much. When the new dorm was built in the 70’s, half of U Hall was converted into classrooms.

The dorm section of U Hall was all-male, and had a community bathroom. I really wasn’t cool with the communal showers in there, and would often get up at 5AM to bathe or simply do so the night before. I think I even wore swim trunks in there a couple of times. Predictably, many jokes were made about not dropping the soap, and the loaf of hair that accumulated over the central drain was a constant source of disgust. The whole setup was pretty nasty, more like a high school locker room than anything else.

Interestingly, the San Francisco 49ers used to live in U Hall while at Sierra College for summer training. Residents would occasionally find graffiti scrawled on the walls by people like Jerry Rice and others, often crude summaries of their sexual conquests. The 49ers had apparently shagged many women in the rooms we lived in, which was kind of weird.

sierra_map_1992
THE ROOMS

The rooms themselves were rather strange as far as dorms go, since they hadn’t changed much since 1961. The ceilings had those panels with holes in them that we used to stick pencils in in grade school, and the floors were that plain white mop-able linoleum tile that every public building in America had for decades. The windows and curtains were heavy and thick, and it felt very much like living in a small, old classroom. It was very ‘midcentury institutional’, only not in a good way.
The plumbing was faulty, too. When turned on, the faucet of our in-room sink would produce nothing but a wheezing sound for several seconds before belching brown water into the bowl. There was hardly any insulation in the building, and it got really cold in the winter.

 
LET IT ROLL

My room was close to the middle of the building, right next to the bathroom. Considering that the non-dorm half consisted of classrooms, it was really strange that scores of students listened to lectures only a few feet from where I slept. The classrooms were also multi-purpose, and on some mornings a large group of special ed students would unexpectedly show up right outside my window. They’d come right up and peer in, staring at me as I was waking up. Other times they’d engage in a game that was evidently called “Let it Roll” while I was trying to sleep. I have no idea what the rules of Let it Roll were, but it involved kicking something around the area right outside my window. They got really into it.

 
NUMB JOHN IS DISCOVERED

We rowdy college guys were told not to enter the classroom half of the building after school hours, and the doorway between the two sections was usually closed. Nobody really wanted to hang out in there anyway, since nearly everything was locked and there wasn’t much to see anyway. The only room accessible to us was a large room in the central ‘elbow’ part of the building, which was used as a lecture hall.

The fact that the bathroom was right before it at the end of the dorm hall was a little odd. You’d be in your boxers holding a towel on your way to the shower, and just around the corner a lecture was taking place. Some of us used to joke about walking into that class in our undies as a group, but we never did.

I didn’t immediately fit in with the dorm crowd there. Things definitely improved later on, but during my first semester there I was pretty antisocial.  I spent a lot of time sitting in my room, trying to figure out how to play guitar. When I couldn’t be alone, I would often pick it up and go find somewhere quiet to continue practicing.

One evening, just a few weeks after I moved in, my roommate came back from a night class while I was trying to play. He was pretty difficult to live with, so I decided to leave. Unfortunately it was dark, and the security guys didn’t like us walking around the campus at night. So, I decided to check out the big dark classroom past the doors at the end of our hall. Surely, that would be a good place to play some music without disturbing anybody.

I walked through the doors into near-total darkness, holding my beat-up twelve string by the neck. Not wanting to knock anything over, I went over to the wall and felt around for the light switch. I flipped on the lights, and found something quite unexpected.

numb_john_1

Startled, I didn’t know what to make of the six-foot-tall, somewhat intimidating blue figure standing silently before me. It was mounted on a wheeled platform, and the positions of its arms and legs suggested a fighting stance. The words  N U M B   J O H N  were visible on the front, somewhat faded and worn. Whatever he was, “Numb John” looked as if he had been in use for some time.

I had to laugh. We Amigos have always joked about bizarre, random things that happen to us, and here I was staring at the most awesomely absurd thing I’d ever seen. What the heck?!?

Looking around the room, further investigation revealed that the classroom was being used for some kind of law enforcement training. Numb John was a specialized dummy designed for self-defense instruction, which explained why he looked a little beat up. Intrigued, I set my guitar down and poked around the classroom a bit. I curiously opened up a cabinet to find several super-creepy life-sized CPR mannequins inside.
mannequin
They actually looked more realistic than this, like the dummy on the cover of Radiohead’s The Bends.

Radiohead-The-Bends

I closed everything up and got out of there, making a mental note to return at some point. Numb John was too cool to leave alone.

 
PACO, MEET NUMB JOHN

Paco used to come over to hang out on weekends every so often, and we’d spend most of our time visiting all the record stores in the greater Sacramento area hunting for music we liked.
On one such occasion, my roommate had gone home for the weekend and left an available bed for Paco to crash on. Many of the other residents had also taken off for the weekend, and U Hall was unusually quiet and still.

Paco fell asleep pretty quickly after lying down, and I suddenly realized I hadn’t yet told him about Numb John. Inspired, I quietly slipped out the door and down the hall to the big classroom.

Wheeling Numb John away from his usual spot in the corner was difficult at first. He was heavier than I’d anticipated, but I was eventually able to scoot him down the hall without making too much noise. I had to be quick to make sure nobody saw what I was up to.

I stopped right outside my room and peeked in to verify that Paco was still asleep. He seemed to be out cold, so I carefully opened the door all the way and wheeled Numb John inside. The base just barely fit through the doorway. Slowly, I turned Numb John around to face Paco and sat down at the edge of my own bed.

“Paco.” I whispered loudly. “PACO. Wake up.”

“Zzz… Hhmm?” he responded, mostly still asleep.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

“Hunh?”

“I said, there’s someone here to see you. Look!” I pointed behind him, toward the doorway.

Now mostly awake, Paco turned over to see what I was talking about. Numb John stood next to the bed, silently towering over him.

I can’t remember Paco’s exact reaction, but I do remember that it was very funny. I think he jolted slightly, and muttered a few expletives before laughing.

“WHAT THE … ?!?”

Needless to say, after we stopped laughing I had to explain the entire story of how I had discovered Numb John and what he was there for. I think I even took Paco into the classroom to show him all the frightening CPR dummies.

At some point either before or after this incident, I also introduced Jaimenacho (and probably Pepe as well) to the big blue dummy at the end of the hall. For a long time, we half-seriously planned to “liberate” Numb John from the confines of the classroom and take him with us when I left Sierra. It was simple: we’d load him into the back of Paco’s truck on the last day of school while all the other kids were moving out, cover him with a sheet, and our giant blue friend would be able to live with us in peace away from Sierra College. Fortunately, our underdeveloped 19-year-old brains had just enough sense to prevent us from actually going through with it.

Eventually, Numb John became a minor celebrity among the people I hung out with in the dorms. He was something of an unofficial mascot for us, and we would occasionally roll him out for special occasions.

 
WHERE IS HE NOW?

It’s been more than twenty years, and I have no idea whether Numb John is still in that classroom, in a landfill, or somewhere else. It would be awesome to learn his current whereabouts.