There are a number of situations that seem too ridiculous or just too unlikely to ever happen anywhere outside a cartoon. You know, stuff like watching someone make an escape through a tunnel they just graffitied on the side of a building, or a shotgun blast that grazes its target but doesn't do anything other than sharply part his hair, or hearing an actual human say the word "varmint" out loud.
We would've added "putting a stranger's cigarette out with a fire extinguisher" on that list, but a Salt Lake City restaurant owner decided that he'd bring that one to life on Friday night. According to KSL, Jon Bird had been volunteering for an event at the Gallivan Center when he stepped outside for a smoke—and he says that he confirmed with the building's security guard that it was OK to light up in that spot.
But Bird was quickly confronted by a man in a striped sweater who carried a fire extinguisher outside with him. The man, later identified as local restaurateur Alex Jamison, told Bird and another man that they couldn't light up that close to his "customer area." The two smokers said that they were 25 feet away from the outdoor seating, in accordance with Utah law, but Jamison disagreed… strongly.
"He came out with energy of hostility, a fire extinguisher in his hands, and said ‘I told you, you can’t be here,’” Bird told the station. “I’m still in shock and awe. I feel dizzy, kind of shaken up that something like this could actually happen.”
In a video of the altercation posted to Facebook, Bird's girlfriend asks if he's really going to spray him with a fire extinguisher; Jamison responds, "I'm going to put his cigarette out"; and when Bird puts his cigarette back in his mouth, Jamison blasts him in the face. (Bird did tell him to "do it," but…)
In a statement, Jamison said that, because he stands up for animal rights, he needs to apologize to Bird. "Well I’ll say that I’m not proud of my behavior, I let myself get egged on and I overreacted. I’m a protective small business owner who has asked hundreds of people not to smoke near our patio in the interest of our customers and our neighbors’ customer," he wrote.
"I try to be respectful and generally always get good responses. I asked him multiple times during the day to please go to the designated smoking area but should not have reacted to feeling disrespected. I certainly owe the other person involved an apology and would like to make it right with him however I need to. I did not mean to cause him any harm. Our business is committed to fighting for animal rights and this must include other people. I’m sorry."
Jamison, a long-time vegan, owns veggie-friendly sandwich shop Buds, the more upscale Boltcutter, and the vegan bakery and ice cream shop Monkeywrench.
"For me it’s not the restaurant industry or cooking I’m passionate about it’s sharing the vegan message and spreading the movement,” he told Salt Lake Scene in May. “You can put a plate of food in front of someone and it changes their perception a little bit.”
Putting a fire extinguisher in someone's face also serves to change peoples' perception a little bit; the Facebook pages for Jamison's restaurants have already been hit by critics of his behavior. "Will you have a fire extinguisher flavor coming soon?" someone asked on the most recent Monkeywrench post. "Does it come with a side of assault?" another person asked underneath a picture of Boltcutter's oyster mushroom tacos.
Bird said that he and his girlfriend both went to the hospital after he was sprayed, and that he's had headaches and experienced shortness of breath since the incident. He has also hired an attorney. KUTV reports that the police were called to the scene, but Jamison and his fire extinguisher had already left by the time they arrived.
Perhaps he hurriedly drew a tunnel on the side of a building and managed to run through it, just in time.