What A Blast! Tracking Explosions

TO WIT

February 03, 1991|By Dave Barry

We have been very busy, here at the Institute of Exploding Things. We have received so many alarming explosion reports that our Electronic Computerized Data Base overflowed the Heineken box where we keep it and got scattered all over our office floor when our small auxiliary dog, Zippy, started digging in it.

Dogs will do that. They'll lie around and do absolutely nothing for five hours, then suddenly they'll receive an urgent radio message from the Dog Planet that says: "Start digging right now!" And they'll leap up and just tear into whatever surface they happen to be standing on, whether it's a nice oak floor or the Institute of Exploding Things Data Base. This is an important instinct that dogs have.

Nevertheless we can clearly see that the worldwide epidemic of exploding things has reached epidemic proportions. Consider the following London Daily Telegraph article, which was sent in by alert reader Ralph Gage. We are reprinting this article in its entirety:

"A wet T-shirt exploded in the hands of Miss Gail Salter as she hung it on her washing line in Hucknall, Notts. Firemen blamed a huge buildup of static electricity."

We certainly do not wish to be critical, but whoever wrote this article has the journalism instincts of Spam. A T-shirt explodes in a woman's hands, and the firemen of Hucknall, Notts, casually reveal that this was caused by, quote, "a huge buildup of static electricity," and we're supposed to let it go at that?

If this article is true, millions of Americans are walking time bombs, especially our young people, who are known for wearing T-shirts and scuffing their feet on carpets, which is where static electricity comes from. One minute a young person could be full of life, listening to loud, ugly music while you're trying to sleep, and the next minute, blam, the Hope for Tomorrow is snuffed out, along with $387 worth of rap CDs. So let's not worry about it.

But we should definitely give some thought to our next item, which was sent in by alert reader Jonathan Ward. It's the instructions for a product called Fly Sniper, which uses a chemical attractant to trap flies. Under the heading Helpful Hints appears the following:

"Never seal dead flies in a closed container. Doing so may result in hazardous explosion."

We have read this Helpful Hint over and over, and do you know what has happened to us? We have been seized by an overpowering urge to seal dead flies in a closed container. We can't help it!

But we should also be thinking about the alarming implications ++ of our next item, a 1980 article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, sent in by alert attorney H. Watkins Ellerson. This article, by science writer Beverly Orndorff, concerns a doctor who, being a doctor, was probing around in an intimate region of a male patient with two medical objects: a viewing device called a sigmoidoscope, and an electrocautery device that, according to the article, "generates intense heat."

This proved to be unfortunate, because without warning the patient had an intestinal event that we will not name here, except to say that it is usually caused by being in a crowded elevator. In the doctor's words, this is what happened next:

"I saw a blue flame . . . and, with a loud 'boom,' an explosion occurred, thrusting the patient forward. The sigmoidoscope was propelled back into my hand forcefully enough to push both my attendant and myself backwards."

The patient turned out OK, but we hope this serves as a reminder of the importance of exercising extreme caution whenever you are in a doctor's waiting room. It's too late to react when your doctor and his assistant come crashing through the wall, propelled by a high-speed sigmoidoscope. This is why the American Medical Association now recommends that all waiting-room patients take the simple precaution of lying on the floor and covering themselves with a 6-inch protective layer of old issues of Fortune magazine, which are kept in all medical waiting rooms for that purpose.

Unfortunately we're almost out of space, so we can't discuss the many other alarming reports we've received, such as the one concerning the gasoline that leaked into a lake in Fort Collins, Colo., causing a rash of exploding barbecued fish; or the blackout that was caused in Thornton, Colo., when a squirrel got inside an electrical transformer; or the similar incident that occurred in Syracuse, N.Y., where a transformer detonated a raccoon. God alone knows what will happen when, inevitably, a transformer is infiltrated by a cow.

The important thing right now is, do not panic. Disregard the fact that at any moment, in any given area, you could be wiped off the face of the Earth by a hail of squirrel fragments. You must force yourself to remain calm. And no matter how great the temptation -- believe us, we know what you are going through -- you must not seal your dead flies in a closed container. Mail them to us. *

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