'You Do Not Want To Go To A Mexican Jail'

I’ve been watching “The Bridge,” the excellent crime thriller being shown on Hulu. There two versions, the original, also known as “Bron/Broen,” is based in Denmark and Sweden, and the US version takes place in El Paso, Texas and the Mexican city just across the border, Ciudad Juarez. It’s harrowing stuff and for anyone who follows the news knows, Juarez is a very, very dangerous city.

I used to work for Crest Audio back in the late 1980s and we sold a large amount of power amplifiers to a disco in Juarez. I don’t remember the name of the club but I do recall that the DJ and head honcho went by the name “Bobby C.” Bobby had invited me to visit if I ever got to El Paso and on a business trip through Texas I took him up on his offer.

At the time, the Crest 8001 was the flagship model and considered a beast. It delivered a whopping – for its time – 1400 watts per channel into 2 ohms. The 2 ohms thing was a big deal and Crest was the only power amp manufacturer that could not only tout 2 ohm operation, but back it up in terms of performance. Running an amp at 2 ohms was considered by many to be foolish but it did allow the sound system designer or operator to wire a lot of speakers to a single channel of the amp. Discos loved Crest amps.

As darkness fell on El Paso I gathered my pile of Crest Audio t-shirts – “Power Is Serious Business” – that I had brought for the crew and headed on foot to the pedestrian bridge over to Juarez. Laughingly referred to as “The Friendship Bridge” it didn’t feel very friendly then and it hasn’t got any friendlier now that the cartels are in charge.

Once in Juarez I felt scared and wished I was back in El Paso. The neighborhood looked bad and smelled worse. Remember this was pre-Internet, smart phone, 24-hour news, or any of that stuff. I was on my own. Luckily the directions that I had received from Bobby were good and once inside the club, and after a couple beers and a shot of tequila, I settled in.

Bobby took me up to a beautiful room that doubled as a DJ “booth” and VIP lounge for special guests. He proved to be not only a great host but also the ultimate multi-tasker. One minute he was spinning records and getting the crowd jacked, shouting into the microphone, and the next he was getting drinks for the few guests as well as conversing with me about the sound system.

At one point in the middle of our chat about all things impedance, he said to me, “Greg hang on one second.” Bobby grabbed the mic with one hand, did something on the lighting control with the other and before I knew it he had killed the sound and shined a spotlight on the dance floor where a fight had broken out. He said, “Stop fighting right now or you will go to jail. Believe me when I say that you do not want to go to a Mexican jail.” The culprits, off duty soldiers from nearby Ft. Bliss, immediately pulled themselves together, gave a nod towards Bobby and left. With a flick of his hand, Bobby restarted the sound and lights as if nothing had happened. He picked up our conversation exactly where we had left off.

I was slack jawed and thought long and hard about that scene as I made my way back across the bridge to my hotel. It felt good – great actually – to have been around it. I had been out of my comfort zone in a big way during a business trip with a customer and I had witnessed something that not too many sales managers get to see. I was in the trenches and seeing what our customers deal with on a nightly basis. Do I recommend visiting Ciudad Juarez on a regular basis? No. But I often think back to that experience when I’m in a meeting that is making me uncomfortable. I stayed out of a Mexican jail and lived to write about it. A little danger in business is good.