Beijing Boyce XVII: Mailbag!

Two issues ago, I wrote somewhat humorously about the dangers I faced while being treated to a Flaming Lamborghini in a Beijing bar. To be clear, serving lit substances to patrons who are drunk, and usually showing off, is a cocktail for disaster (not to mention that it vaporizes perfectly good alcohol). Several readers proved my point, including one who submitted the following story:

“One winter’s evening a while back, I was in [a Tianjin bar] which drew a good crowd nightly to watch its bartender juggling and fire acts. This particular evening the bar added a special trick – the Flaming Champagne Glass Pyramid – which they set up on top of the bar.

“Lights dimmed, lighter ready, the bartender did his pour from his bottles of nitro (or whatever they were using that night) and the glass pyramid was lit into bright flames as the crowd went “Oooh” and “Ahhh.”

“As the bartender poured, and the cascading liquid flamed up, the manager added his own touch: he took a deep breath and blew at the middle of the flaming pyramid. Instantly a torch of flames shot straight out a good six feet or so. (If you have ever seen a World War Two movie with infantrymen using flame throwers, this is EXACTLY what it looked like.)

“Unfortunately, a customer happened to be standing in front of the act about five feet away. The flames completely engulfed his head and neck, and he now became the Torch Man. He was stunned for a second. Then he began to use his hands in a futile attempt to slap out the burning vapors. All of the locals standing around him just stared and the place went silent. What were they thinking – that this was part of the act?

“By this time (half an eternity or maybe ten seconds later), as singed hair and flesh smell started permeating the air, and realizing that no one standing near this poor chap was lifting a finger to help, I grabbed my half empty pint of Tsingdao, ran from the other side of the bar, and dumped it over the guy’s head. The flames receded somewhat, and as my eyes scanned the nearest tables for another pint to pour over the guy, another patron jumped into the act and beat out the remaining flames.

“Without going into all the graphic details, the bloke was standing there in shock, with face and hair singed and melted, and the staff during this whole episode (30 seconds?) did absolutely nothing. He was finally bundled off in a car to the local hospital, and the eventual news was that he did recover from severe burns.

“Moral of the story? Bring your own fire extinguisher to the ball, or if your friend wants to show you the latest 151 trick with a Bic, decline politely as you run for the nearest exit. At the very least, always keep a pint handy.

(From Beijing Boyce XVII, first emailed on May 27, 2006)