Space Modulator


Or, as Marvin the Martian would say, “Where’s the Ka-Boom?  There should have been an Earth-shattering Ka-Boom!”  We’ve had three Earth-shattering ka-booms here in town in just over ten years.

Just before the time on my parking-meter ran out at the auto-parts plant, I came home one morning, after a midnight shift.  I kissed the wife good-bye as she left for work, had a (for me) midnight snack, and headed for bed around 8 AM.  Just snuggling in, I heard/felt a heavy thump outside, the kind you get when a heavily loaded semi truck hits a pothole, or recessed manhole (Sorry, politically correct, “Personnel-access”) cover.  But wait, I didn’t hear a truck. I used to live right down-town, where that was common.  Now I live in suburbia, three blocks from the nearest street that trucks are allowed on.

I crawled back out of bed, went over and pulled back the blinds.  Two blocks down the hill there is a huge plume of smoke.  I threw my clothes back on, and went for a walk.  Most of one side of a semi-detached house is missing.  The gas line has been snapped off, and an 8-10 foot blow-torch is incinerating what’s left.  The house across the street is a corner lot, with an eight-foot wooden fence around the backyard.  It looks like a fort from one of the old cowboy movies, except, instead of arrows sticking out, it’s been impaled with most of somebody’s garage.

It turns out the man of the house drove a company van, which had been converted to propane.  Apparently the propane leaked all night, filling the entire garage with gas.  When he climbed in and started the van, up it went.  Other than some hearing loss and slight scorching, the guy was fine.  He was at the center of the blast, and everything blew away from him.

A couple of years later, a co-worker came in for an afternoon shift a little shaky.  He lived in an apartment near the downtown area.  The house behind them, on the side street, actually sat in the middle of what should have been two house-lots.  That fact was important.  The little old guy who owned it was 76, and lived alone.  He was starting to feel that he would be moved into a retirement home by his sons, because he couldn’t take care of himself.

He went downstairs and loosened the fitting on the natural-gas line, where it entered the house.  Then he went back upstairs and sat in the living room.  Perhaps he thought the gas would kill him.  It did!  The explosion left nothing above ground level.  My friend’s apartment-building had hunks of his house embedded in its back wall.  The tree on the other side stopped much of what would have hit the neighbor’s place.  The extra 40 or 50 feet of empty space prevented injuries and serious damage, although all the nearby houses had parts of his home on their roofs and lawns.

On a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago, we had the third case of a house blowing up.  It happened at 11:45 PM, when everyone in the house was in bed.  When the emergency crews arrived, they found one of the older children wandering around in what used to be the back yard, looking for his bed.  The roof was popped off, and the walls were peeled like a banana.

Years back, a city dump was located on what was the edge of town.  It didn’t take too long for the city to grow out to meet the dump.  Soon, houses were being built right up to the edges.  Residents had problems with methane seeping into their homes, causing small explosions….well, more like frightening little pops, and little balls of flame.  The city had to buy all the affected properties, and put bore holes with steel pipes around the site.  It made an interesting sight, especially at night, to drive past and see the methane burning like the stacks at an oil refinery.

At the most recent blow-out, they suspect natural gas, whether a leak or a malfunctioning furnace.  The family is socially/legally squeaky clean.  It is highly unlikely that someone got inside to plant a bomb.  They are doing bore-holes to check for methane, but the area has never been used for land-fill.

Despite the regular miracles they show on such TV shows as CSI, we may never be sure of the cause of this latest blast.  Today’s paper says that the gas company is going to check 800 nearby houses for gas leaks.  Video of the structure in flames is available on You-tube.  Of course someone has started a fund-raiser to assist.  I can only hope that it will be used for immediate expenses, and not just because the owners of this quarter-million dollar home didn’t bother to purchase insurance.

The Romanian family who used to live next door has still not moved back into their home because they are afraid.  I don’t know where they have been staying.  I mean, where do you stay when you have 11 kids??!  Aged 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 19.  A five-year gap in the middle; it sounds like it might be someone’s second marriage, but that someone needs another hobby.

It’s another reminder that, what we take for granted, can so quickly be taken from us.  Where’s the Ka-Boom?  Thankfully not at my house.


15 thoughts on “Space Modulator

  1. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Just wow! That is terrible, Archon.


  2. Jim Wheeler says:

    Interesting. Natural gas also has a different dangerous aspect that was highlighted recently on Moe Howard’s blog, Whatever Works, i.e., that it often contains the radioactive gas, radon. Odorless and invisible, radon is suspected of being a common and major cause of cancer. But, that’s mainly a concern only if there’s some kind of open flame in the house, like a water heater or stove burners.

    And speaking of explosive gases, the kinds of incidents you mention ought to cause engineering reflection on the designs of hydrogen-fueled vehicles one occasionally hears about. Hydrogen, as in the Hindenburg disaster, is amazingly reactive.


    • Archon's Den says:

      Watched an Education Channel story about the construction of the Empire State Building. They were fighting to be the depot for those things. How would it have been to have the Hindenburg go up in flame over downtown New York, instead of an empty field in Jersey? 😕


      • A number of Hindenburg survivors walked out of the wreckage or jumped from near the ground, with little to no injury. I think having the Hindenburg blow up moored to the top of the Empire State would have been quite a bit more deadly, not to mention spectacular (in an airplane-crash sorta way).


  3. benzeknees says:

    I’m not sure I would want to live in your town!


    • Archon's Den says:

      Sadly, it’s the cost of living in a city. X number of residents equals X number of accidents. Small towns reduce the total, but not the likelihood. In my hometown of 2000, some guy on drugs broke into the house next door and killed one teen girl with a 2 X 4, and brain-damaged her sleep-over guest. We only think we’re safe. 😦


  4. If you ever watched the sci-fi show “Babylon 5”, you’d know the answer to your question “where’s the boom”? Commander Susan Ivanova’s favourite phrase was “No boom … today. Boom tomorrow. There’s ALWAYS a boom tomorrow.” 😀
    Count yourself lucky – your booms are just little gas farts. Where we used to live in Chicago, booms tended to come from large aircraft making even larger holes in the ground. (For reference, Google “American Airlines Flight 191 crash”, when a DC-10 nearly removed a trailer park, gasoline storage facility, and the Chicago Police’s K-9 training facility from the face of the earth.)


  5. Archon's Den says:

    I watched Baylon 5 in Detroit, long before the CRTC imported it to Canada. Wasn’t crazy about Boxleitner taking over. I agree about Chicago. The bigger the city, the more likely something is going to happen on any given day! 🙂


    • Now tell me you thought Michael O’hare was one of THE best space commanders ever, and I’ll get those grand-parent adoption papers in the mail today! 😉


      • Archon's Den says:

        Avery Brooks as Hawk to Robert Uhrig’s “Spenser” was awesome. As Commander Sisco he was a pretentious wimp. Bruce Boxleitner was just a place-holder till Babylon fell out of the sky….uh, production. Mike O’hare projected presence. Send the papers. I’ll sign them….right after I check to see that they’re not commitment documents. 😀


      • No worries, the only commitment documents you might get would be mine – to the rubber-room motel…. 😉


  6. aFrankAngle says:

    Incredible. Everything has pluses and minuses, so this is reminded that the minuses do happen, but thankfully not all the time. Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist.


  7. BrainRants says:

    I think you AND Erickson both ought to be questioned in all of these events. You because you’re apparently in the middle of it all, and Erickson for obvious reasons.


  8. Archon's Den says:

    Lack of IQ and personality creates a social black hole. These things just spiral in. There’s no point in questioning John, unless you want to sprain your brain. 😆


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