It was just about quitting time March 9 when Roy Eidem received an alarming e-mail. A potentially hazardous waste dump had been discovered in Shockoe Bottom. The operations manager for the city's community development department immediately sent an inspector to the scene.
“Because of the potential severity of it,” he says, “we grabbed a staff member and said, ‘Go out right away and take a look at it and if you have any question in your mind, call hazmat immediately.’”
When the inspector arrived at the grassy corner capping a row of bars on 18th and Grace streets, he found a viscous, red substance on the ground. It left a sticky footprint measuring about 8 feet by 20 feet, but he was unable to identify it.
“I've never seen anything like this before,” Eidem recalls the inspector saying when he phoned in.
The hazardous materials team sprang into action, deploying its special hazardous-waste detection devices. Turns out the substance was nontoxic. Old-fashioned door-knocking confirmed the fearsome goo was, in fact, red Jell-O.
“Exotic dancing wrestling match,” is what the inspector reported to Eidem.
Hunter Haglund, a close associate of Fallout Nightclub next door to where the Jell-O was found, refuses to confirm that foxy boxing was the culprit. He does say there was a Jell-O party and that some may have gotten outside, but that “it's hard to speculate as to why somebody would believe it was toxic waste.” Perhaps, he muses, it's all the doom and gloom dominating the headlines.
He declines to offer details of what a Jell-O party might entail, but suggests it may be a byproduct of the pervasive sullenness of the times. But who should be surprised, after all, to find a giant puddle of delicious Jell-O?
“People love Jell-O,” Haglund says. “It's cheap. It is an exciting treat that everyone enjoys, typically. There's really so many things that you can do with Jell-O. It's springtime. It's so accessible.”