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.

 

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What Time Is It?

Savor made me think about another basic difference between people, last night, when she remarked about me responding to a comment in the middle of the night.  Diurnal vs. Nocturnal.  There are day people, and there are night people.  The two don’t normally hang out in the same groups, but sometimes a day person marries a night person….and then the fun begins.

My parents and my younger brother were all day people, impatiently tapping their fingers, waiting for the sun to rise.  My sister and I were both night people.  Our parents, especially Mom, just never seemed to get it.  My sister married young and had five kids.  They learned early in life to get themselves fed and off to school.

Her schedule was much like mine is now, go to bed about four AM, crawl back out around noon, to feed the kids lunch.  Their family moved into a house across the corner from ours.  Mom said it was not unusual to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and see lights still on.  She bitched at my sister one time, “You should be up early, doing laundry, or scrubbing floors.”  My sister replied, “What do you think I’m doing at three AM, without the kids in the way?”

My dad got me a summer job, two successive years, at the plant where he worked.  Lord knows how early he got up.  He’d haul my ass out of bed at five-thirty.  I’d dress and have tea with him.  I couldn’t face food that early.  We started work at seven AM, and had a half-hour commute, but left around six, “just in case.”

He sometimes praised the glories and benefits of rising early, almost like a religious experience.  One Friday evening, after the standard five-thirty rousting, I got together with a bunch of my friends.  We hit the bowling alley, then a restaurant, had a swim in the harbor, hiked a couple of miles upriver, built a campfire, cooked some canned food, wandered back into town, and one friend and I went down to the beach for another, early swim.  The sun was just coming up.

I thought I might get a bit of sleep on the beach.  I knew I’d be awakened when the tourist hordes descended, but, it wasn’t to be, so I headed home.  I decided to fry myself some bacon and eggs for a final snack.  As I was doing this, my Dad came out of the bedroom.  “See what I told you about getting up in time to watch the sun rise?”  “I just saw it from the other end.  It happens every day, no big deal.  I’m going to bed now.  I’ll skip lunch.  Wake me about two, and I’ll mow the lawn.”  He did, and I did, and sunrise was never mentioned again.

As I’ve worked, I’ve had to put in a variety of scheduled shifts.  The first four years at the metal fab. shop, I was supposed to work from eight-thirty to five, with an hour for lunch, but my department was undermanned.  I came in at seven, and found that I actually got as much accomplished in the first hour and a half, before the rest of the office arrived, as I did the rest of the day.

My next job, as a purchasing agent, I worked under the plant manager, rather than the office manager.  The rest of the office came in at eight-thirty.  This nasty old square-head demanded that I start at eight.  Having put in the four years starting at seven, it was no big deal.  Usually I was there ten to fifteen minutes before eight.  I came in one day at twenty to eight, and found him just fuming.  “Where the hell have you been?  I want to place a rush order with XYZ Co.!”  “I don’t start till eight.  I’m here early, and it wouldn’t matter if I was here at six, XYZ’s sales desk doesn’t open till nine.”  Facts and logic do not trump emotion.  Despite asking four times, I left after 18 months without even the three-month probationary raise he’d promised.

I worked two years straight nights in security.  I’ve worked from four to twelve, four to twelve-thirty, four till one, and, at three places, including my retirement job, from four to one-thirty.  Two of those were supposed to be four night weeks, but one of them regularly scheduled a Friday night four to nine shift, at regular pay, of course.

I put in almost twenty years at the auto plant, rotating through successive weeks of midnights, afternoons, and days.  I could work them all, but afternoons was my favorite.  It was being half asleep on my motorcycle, going in for a day shift, that caused me to misgauge pulling in behind a bus for a turn, dropped me on the street and broke my shoulder.  Workers used to bitch about having to change shifts every week.  I brought it up with the union president one day, and suggested that we rotate every two weeks.  He told me that they had tried it before I arrived, and it failed, dismally.  It’s hard enough to change after one week.  After two weeks, it becomes ingrained and it’s almost impossible.

My last two years before retirement, I worked the four to one-thirty shift.  With the occasional need to finish a specific task, there was a bit of overtime.  Regular pay, of course, but a night or maybe two, per week, of leaving around two AM.  By the time I got home, had something to eat and drink, and wound down, it was often four in the morning.  That’s the schedule I’ve stuck with.

I don’t watch much TV, and morning shows bore and distress me.  We schedule medical appointments for late morning or afternoons.  My son is almost finished five years of straight midnights.  He sleeps from ten till six.  Our schedule meshes with his fairly well, so I’m going to keep going to bed and getting up late until I have to go to a retirement home.  By then, I hope I don’t care.