"This isn't too bad."
I had just gotten sprayed with pepper spray in an "X" pattern across the face, as part of the DC Metropolitan Police Academy's training for handling OC spray.
Quick primer on self-defense spray: The spray is called Oleoresin Capsicum, or shortened to OC spray for short. Mace is a conpany, which started the concept using teargas as the agent and then it too switched over to OC. There's a pretty good explanation of the ingredients in the wikipedia page linked above.
MPD, like many other departments has officers get sprayed before getting OC so they know how to handle themselves when it happens to them. I say when and not if, because cops get sprayed a lot, 99% of the time by other cops. We call these cops, "dicks". So after being sprayed, they have to pretend to cuff a dummy and then read a number being held 50 feet away to simulate reading an address off a house and then finally you need to protect your firearm as someone tries to take it.
I should say that in my 5 years with the NYPD, I had been exposed to OC several times, but always it was a contact hit. I was generally running into a cloud of OC after another cop has sprayed a perp. See, you're supposed to spray them and then back off and let the OC do it's job, but a lot of times you're in an apartment and someone sprays a guy and you're all in a closet and then you're playing Seven Seconds in Heaven with handcuffs and much more cursing. But this was a direct spray to the eyes, nose and mouth. Night and Day. Arbys to In 'N Out. OTPHJ to ... well you get the point.
I keep referring to other people using OC, as the only time I used it, it had no effect on the 6'5" guy on PCP who later bit my neck. So just know this stuff doesn't work on everyone. Apparently 20% of the population is immune. I am not in that group of people.
So we assembled outside, where is was rainy and cold, and lined up to get sprayed. When it was my turn, I closed my eyes and mouth, deep breath and then came the Devil's money shot. I could feel the heat on my face, but it wasn't until she told me to open my eyes and I found that I couldn't, did I realize that I had made a poor life decision in being a cop again, much less an unpaid one. So OC is a lacrimator, which basically means you cry a lot. But those tears feel like lava, and the remedy is sadly the hardest thing to do.
I was coughing and squinting and cursing. If Popeye had a love child with Mr. Magoo, that would be me. You need to open your eyes to allow the air in, as air and water are the best ways to decontaminate. I passed the obstacle course, though seeing that number in the dark through my eyeballs of fury was not easy. My face felt like it was on fire and my eyes wanted to close, but when they were closed it hurt 100 times more to open them. And you needed to cry to get the OC out of your eyeballs.
And the snotting. So much snotting. As my friend Steve used to say, my nose was running like Carl Lewis. Snotting everywhere. I was lacrimating out of every orifice on my head. I also managed to wipe some of the OC on my left neck so I had a nice burn developing there as well. I was blowing my nose on my t-shirt, because I didn't care about my looks at that point. Hell, I couldn't see enough to know what I looked like anyway.
I haven't showered since, because the water reactivates the OC, and I'm waiting until I arrive at my mother's house where my crying will be mistaken for that of my new nephew who is 3 months old. I can still feel the OC in my eyes and on my face. And the experience reminded me again of why its so important to talk your way out of situations. My partner in NYC was a guy named Will who had a quicker temper than me, but we worked really well together. I often played good cop to his bad cop, as defendants would refuse to work with him and only talk to me. You need to be able to talk to people and also be ready to put your hands on people. But if I never have to pull that stupid can out of its holder, that's fine with me.