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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 12 May 97 14:31:34 -0700
Subject: Mach 9
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: Jim Thompson <jim@hosaka.SmallWorks.COM>
Forwarded-by: "Sarah Hillam" <sarah@LCinc.Com>
Thought I'd pass on something which happened to me earlier today. I went
from initial fright, to panic, to later embarrassment, and much, MUCH later,
a (kind of) laughing groan..
Was getting ready to take a shower this afternoon after doing some yard
work. Being single (i.e. living alone), I had 'shucked off' all my clothes
into the dirty clothes hamper, which happens to be the floor next to my
washer and drying machine. Anyway, I'd just sat down on the commode buck
naked to conduct some personal business. Having grabbed a library book off
my bathroom sink, I was looking forward to relaxing with said book for a
few minutes... sort of 'preperatory' to my shower.
Well, for those of you who've never been to my house, my gas heated hot
water tank is in an enclosed compartment entered via my bedroom closet,
putting the water heater approxiamately 4 1/2 feet diagonally from my face.
Ah, yes, those of you readers who pride themselves on being perspicacious
will realize that the story involves the water heater, and you're correct,
but only indirectly. Please take a moment to picture it; home alone,
absolute quiet, relaxing in Man's nirvana. Calm, tranquil, and at peace
with the world... the moment of creation draws near. Suddenly, in your
FACE, is the loudest, most hidious and God-awful noise human kind could ever
POSSIBLY conceive of at such a delicate moment. Sounded like a 155mm
howitzer went off in my ear.
My hot water tank exploded...
In its enclosed space, it was beyond deafening! No-one could imagine just
how loud it was ('tho I've since thought it MAY have seemed louder than it
was in actuality, due to my relaxed nature, and, well... the delicate
circumstances in which I was involved).
Total CHAOS and HELL broke loose! The dogs of war were rampant in my home,
and everything happened seemingly instantly, yet also in slow motion.
I bit my tongue severly as the ceiling arrested my spasemed leap of abject
terror. I came down on my knees, having done a 180 degree spin of fright
in mid air, only to have my face and chest employed as a break water for
the minor Tsunami erupting from my commode due to the impact and subsequent
sinking of Stephan R. Donaldson's "A Man Rides Through", volume II (661
pages). Seemingly my house is reverberating with the shrieking of banshies,
and I think it's about now, as I'm fishing for a good book to read, that I
realize what's happened. I jump up and 'run' 2 feet to the wall and realize
I can do nothing from this end (it's your basic bathroom wall), run through
the house into my bedroom, dig my way through the closet (while
surf-boarding on my shoes) to the water heater compartment, and realize I
can do nothing here either, as I haven't got the tools needed to remove the
bolted in panels.
I'm standing in wet 'doggie-do' like carpet in my closet, when terror turns
to panic! I am watching (literally!) both the Nile AND the Amazon POURING
into my bedroom from under the panels, and, simualtaneously, I can hear the
gas main spewing forth cubic meter upon cubic meter of natural gas into the
enclosed compartment when this one little thought crystalizes in my brain.
The pilot light!
I know that my whole house is going to explode in a pillaring ball of fire.
What did I do? What could I do?!
Being the man of action, gallantry and unsurpassed heroism which I am, I
did an incredibly DAMNED fine act of a just-beheaded chicken for an
indeterminate amount of time. Am not sure how much time I lost as I ran
for tools to open the compartment (couldn't find them due to panic), ran
back to the bedroom to look at the Seine meandering under my bed, ran into
the hall (I know not why), and vaguely recall running into the living room
at least once for some unknown reason, 'tho am sure it made sense at the
Finally, I wrest myself under control. Gibbering Gary is no more! I am
now Iron Man, and in complete (damage) control! Dad, I done you proud!!!
First thing to do is to secure water and gas ASAP!
I burst out of my house, flee to the side of it, and begin struggling with
the'skirting' (I need to remove it in order to get underneath to the water
main). My neighbor lady (young white welfare momma) is in the yard and I
yell to her my water heater just exploded... no fire yet that I know of, so
yell for her not to call the fire department. By the look of shock and
suprise on her face, I can tell that she must have heard the explosion.
Man, I couldn't have been more wrong.
With 18 inches of crawl space under the house, I scramble across the
concrete, leaving a trail of skin, blood and fingernails as I furtively
grope in absolute darkness for the water main. Having travelled 25 feet or
so (in 1.09 seconds) on my stomach and thighs, I can't find the damned thing
in the stygian darkness. Casting around for aeons, I finally manage to
locate the damned water main and turn it off.
Crawling out the side of my 'basement', my neighbor lady gives me a hand
up, asking if there's anything she can do to help. I tell her "I don't
know" as I run back up the porch and into the house with her trailing in my
Well, longer-story-shorter time!
With this woman following my every move, I secure the gas, exhume my tool
boxes from the bottom of my office closet (in a 'controlled panic'), remove
the panels, grab about 15 towels (all I own), throw them on the carpet (she
and I are stepping on the towels to absorb water, then squeezing them into
a bucket). I guess its about as I'm picking up my third 'full' towel (2nd
towel maybe) when I realize that she has been paying much too much attention
Yep. Son of a biscuit, I'm still bare-assed naked (somewhere in the back
of my mind I'm sure I knew I was naked, but it was 'over-ridden' by the
thought of a gas fire/explosion). I'll spare you the boring details (and
my embarassment) of my multitudinal apologies. She was very understanding,
and rather nice about it. Too nice, in fact.
For an hour, hour and a half, she was the model of an assistant worker, even
though I didn't need her help, telling her so, after the initial fright had
passed. I couldn't get rid of the woman, so finally left the house, locking
up and driving off to "get parts".
To hell with it. Guess this is one of those "You just had to be there"
Gary 'Hiding-daily-from-my-neighbor-woman' James
P.S. You've all heard that rather trite expression "Scared the sh_t out of
me?" Take it from a man who knows... travelling at mach nine the way it
does, you don't even NEED the paper afterwards!
© 1997 Peter Langston