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I'm so hot, I'm combustible. [May. 30th, 2008|08:32 am]
Last night I passed a Car-B-Q. And I felt really sorry for the person who's car it was -- although he seemed to be safely off to the side. But it was cool. 15 foot flames and a bright flashing mini-explosion as I went by.

But of course, it only then served to wake up my paranoia and I spent the rest of the drive home watching the temp gauge on the car and sniffing anxiously for smoke.

Because I set cars on fire.

I was driving home from my summer job, managing an inner city pool, and giving one of my lifeguards a lift home. We stopped at a stop sign and suddenly the car was engulfed in a cloud of smoke. Johnny said, "Oh, my god, the car's on fire." And I said (because I was the boss and the boss always knows better - clearly the early stages of my management career, before I learned better) "No, dude, it's just my turn signal bouncing off the smoke. I guess we're overheating."

So I put the car in park and turn it off and leisurely get out of the car. Walk up to the hood and then remember that I forgot to pop it. As I walk back around the hood, that's when the flame shot out in front of me from under the hood. Luckily, I can admit I'm wrong when faced with the obvious.

"Oh, my god, the car's on fire. Johnny, go call the fire department!" Luckily we were in a residential neighborhood so there were plenty of houses to choose from. (Yes, kiddies, this is when I was in college, BEFORE cell phones, when there were still pterodactyls and you had to knock on doors and ask to use the phone if you were in trouble.)

And that's when my crack lifeguard says "What's the number for the fire department?" Sigh. 911, you moron.

So, I got to watch my parents' station wagon go up in flames. It was put out before it blew up or did anything more spectacular than 15 foot flambes, but at the end, charred, twisted metal.

And I got to make the call to my parents "Uh, can you come pick me up? There's a problem with the car. (outrage and hollering begins) Um, it caught on fire. (how could you set the car on fire, what did you do, what the)" I'll admit, it was a little traumatic at that point to be hollered at by my parents -- as if I had decided to make a campfire on the hood of the car and it had gotten out of control.

I was mollified the next day when my Dad came home from the impound lot, or wherever it is that twisted, charred hunks of ex-cars go, and he was white as a sheet and just hugged me and apologized. I guess they thought it was a bit more...minor.

But it was even more traumatic when, not 3 weeks later, I got into the other family car, started it up and flames shot out of the glove compartment. Truthfully, I just went back inside, left a note for my Mom and went back to bed.

Now, turns out, both cars had been in for electrical work at the same dealership in the past month. So, technically speaking, I may have had nothing to do with it.

But I'm telling you, to this day, on mornings where the air is just the right temperature and you turn the A/C in the car on and it comes out of the vents in a little puff of "smoke"....I can't stop the sudden adrenaline rush of panic.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: pyllgrum
2008-05-30 01:53 pm (UTC)
Don't you just hate it when the narrative of your life hopelessly dates you in another era.. like turning the knob on the TV set to change the channel, remembering where you were when JFK was assassinated, or knowing who Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit played tricks on.
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[User Picture]From: 3fingeredsalute
2008-05-30 02:44 pm (UTC)
I am glad you are safe! Crazy thing about those car-b-cue things is that they tend to spread quite quick. I remember driving two lanes away from a shoulder-smolder and could feel the heat scalding the side of my face like I was holding a stage light against my temple.

I have a small story to amuse you. After college, I packed up my life and drove a Chevy Van to Florida pulling a trailer, both trailer and van loaded to the limits with all my earthly belongings. I don't remember exactly WHERE I was at the time that the knocking and other irritating stuff forced me to pull over and add oil, but I do remember it was a nearly moonless sky, 3AM and not a single solitary street light in the past 20 miles. Armed with a 1970's weakly illuminating flashlight and a plastic container of motor oil (yeah -- at least I was somewhat prepared) I attempted to add the oil. Well -- my aim was a little off, the engine was a little hot, and oil is a little flammable. Spontaneous combustion -- not much, but under the hood, my fear is that it's enough to set something else on fire which IS troublesome! (Did I mention all my earthly possessions are in the car?) I panicked, to put it mildly, and grabbed the only thing I could think of to swat out the flames -- a roll of PAPER TOWELS. Obviously it wasn't too smart of a tool selection, but it was effective. I dove UNDER the car to get to the area where the oil was flaming (somewhere near the U-joint) and swatted until all was extinguished. The paper towels weren't even singed. However -- somewhere in the ruckus, I believe when I was trying to escape the heat and get out from under the car, I sat up just enough to sear a nice long burn from some piece of metal (hot enough to spontaneously ignite dormant oil) across my forehead.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time, it made the rest of the few hundred mile journey even more "exciting". When I arrived and met up with my future roommates, they knew I was crazy enough not to mess with, and not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box. At least it took some time to convince them otherwise.
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-05-30 03:45 pm (UTC)
With the exception of Albert Finney's ill-conceived muffler repairs in Two for the Road and the boneheaded hayseed from my high school who strayed off Shunpike Road one parched October to find a spot to neck with his girlfriend and ended up setting an entire soybean field -- and his pickup truck -- on fire with his catalytic oonverter, it's difficult to come up with a scenario where a car fire is the operator's fault. It's always equipment failure -- it's a metal box full of electrical sparks, flammable liquids and explosive vapors, for crying out loud. It just surprises me they're not all on fire all the time.
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[User Picture]From: skivee
2008-05-30 05:29 pm (UTC)

Burning Rubber

"It just surprises me they're not all on fire all the time"
Gee, that would make rush hour just that much more exciting!
" And now, traffic from Dan Whirley in Chopper 7.
'Thanks, Bob. Well traffic is a bit slow on the GW parkway, because all the cars are on fire. Over on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge...all the cars are on fire. Turning to I-95, we have slowing towards the northbound Laurel exit, because all the cars are on fire. Route 5 into Waldorf hasc some issues related to an earlier truck fire. That's been taken care of , but rubbernecking delays have led to more car fires...Now, Sports7's Hank Flabberman with a special report about why the Redskins still SUCK."
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