Monday, January 17, 2011

Beware the Shredder

Yeah. Lesson learned.

Fire is dangerous which is why insurance companies listen to your request for fire-juggling insurance and say, "" But they have no problem covering you for using a portable paper-shredder. Hey, it's just office equipment. Like a water-cooler without the risk of drowning. Or a stapler without the projectile range.

So I occasionally use one.

In one particular routine I use origami folds to transform a spectator's signed $20 bill into a magnificent, crisp new $5 bill. By way of compensation and to guarantee that I am able to leave the venue unbruised I go on to offer the spectator an additional $15.

However, simply handing the cash over would be anticlimactic so instead I place it in an envelope and shuffle it among five more. A woman is brought on stage from the audience to help select which of the six envelopes the first spectator gets to take home with him. To randomize the process and to guarantee that I'm not influencing her choice, she rolls a pair of dice on the table top and one by one eliminates five of the envelopes.

Which is where the shredder comes in.

With each roll of the dice she takes the eliminated envelope and sticks it into the paper shredder behind her on stage. If all goes according to plan, in spite of five envelopes having been shoved through a device that cuts them into tiny strips, the person who kindly lent me $20 at the start goes home with their money. It works. Most of the time.

I should know better than to trust technology, however. A little over a week ago I was performing this for a company Christmas event (I know, I know, it's January, but this kind of thing is becoming more common) and the woman who came up to help me on stage was wearing a wonderful airy chiffon dress with a matching long scarf thingy. I don't actually know what chiffon is, but if I had to create a word to describe the material her dress was made of, it would be that.

As there was no table behind me on stage I had placed the waste paper basket and portable shredder on the floor and when the woman went to destroy envelope number two, she leaned over the shredder from the top. As if in slow motion I could see the end of her scarf moving closer and closer to the slot with the turning blades... right through the gap with a horrible noise.

Even as I leapt across the stage and through the machine into reverse I could see the headlines: "Christmas Party Ends in Carnage", with a head-shot of the delightful woman in her younger days, before either being strangulated or cut messily into easily-recyclable ribbons.

Fortunately -- miraculously -- her scarf was so thin and pliable that it appeared to have been undamaged by its passage through to the Dark Side of the Bin. It took a good five minutes for my heart-rate to slow to something close to normal.

Lucky. Lucky. Lucky me.

Really lucky.


  1. Ohhhhhh my, that certainly must have made things extra entertaining. Too bad you couldn't have passed it off as part of the trick.

    To be fair, though, the lady in question should have been a bit more aware of the situation. When one is wearing drapey and dangly materials, the possibility that said materials can catch on or in things is always a possibility, and it is the wearer's responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen. It would have been her fault and hers alone if her scarf had become ribbons.

  2. Jade - I'd heard of guys getting their ties stuck in shredders but always figured that kind of thing was just an urban legend or a joke...until that night!

  3. Wow, I'm glad it all turned ok. Sounds like a super cool trick. Although you may have to add a disclaimer on loose swingy clothing?

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