Bomb Squad's Cute Robot Overpowers Fear of Death

Bomb squad robot.JPG
Joe Eskenazi
The lil' robot bore a striking resemblance to Johnny No. 5
As SF Weekly reported earlier, employees of the Bank of America at 33 New Montgomery found a small, yet off-putting, object in an old safety deposit box earlier today. They subsequently phoned police, who shut down one of San Francisco's major thoroughfares as the sandwich-sized object was recovered and disposed of at a remote location.

Police now say bank employees reported in the device to the cops as a "low-priority call" -- but when officers arrived, they decided this was a job requiring the bomb squad. No news yet on the identity of the object at the center of all this -- though it's safe to say it wasn't the normal safety deposit box fare.

It's also safe to say that, for a number of bemused gawkers, the joy of observing a cute, remote-controlled robot on tank treads was greater than the fear of possible death always present when police cordon off an area and roll in multiple bomb-disposal units.

But, hey, it was a really cute robot.

Standing about a foot and a half high and rolling on a pair of trapezoid-shaped tank treads, the robot bore a striking resemblance to the smaller cousin of Johnny No. 5 from Short Circuit. Audible cooing and the readying of camera phones accompanied the robot's emergence from the bank and onto the streets.

Finally, it seems, a reason has been discovered to risk life and limb by peering over the bomb squad's shoulder. Having covered several bomb-disposal scenes, I can attest that it's not much of a spectator sport. In all but the rarest of circumstances, the folks crowding against the yellow tape will never know if it's a gym bag full of pungent old socks or a sophisticated explosive device the tight-lipped cops are gathering up and motoring away. The only way to know, sadly, is for the bomb to go off -- which might lead to altered afternoon plans.

Monitoring a bomb disposal site, then, is not unlike going down to the seashore during a tsunami warning. Really, there's no upside. Either there's no bomb/tsunami -- and you're disappointed. Or there is one -- and you're dead.

There isn't, however, a cute tsunami robot that we know of. So the bomb squad's got that going for them. Which is nice.

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