Total Drek

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Good to know.

Every morning, almost first thing, I take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Despite the fact that she's short a leg, her energy level and enthusiasm for life (not to mention enthusiasm for barking at cats, sniffing dog ass, and trying to eat garbage) makes a morning walk a necessity.

On our walks it is not uncommon for us to see unusual things. Often, this will consist of a dog from somewhere in the neighborhood that has left its home. I usually try to herd these unfortunates into my yard to keep them safe while I contact the owner. Other times the unusual thing is more exotic, such as that pair of thong panties that I noticed resting by the side of the road. I'm not entirely sure how they got there, but given the frequency with which condoms appear in the gutters on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I have a few guesses.

On this morning's walk we did, indeed, see something uncommon. Specifically, we saw a billowing cloud of black smoke. As we walked to the crest of a hill, I managed to see that the smoke was issuing from a parked car of some sort, which was engulfed in a flowing, dancing tapestry of flame. It was, actually, pretty cool to watch from a few blocks away. I noticed, however, that I was not the only person watching. A handful of people had gathered at the bus stop across the street from the fire and were watching unconcernedly.

This I found somewhat odd. I mean, cars contain gasoline and oil and all manner of other combustible substances. It seemed rather foolhardy to stand across the street and watch something like that.

Remarking to my dog that I didn't want a facial via shrapnel, we turned down a side street and continued our journey. She seemed unworried, far more interested in the smells to be found at the margins of the sidewalk, but my mind kept drifting back to the burning car. Can cars really explode, I wondered, or is that just a convention from movies and t.v. shows? I seemed to remember reading that liquid gasoline is not explosive, but that gasoline vapors are. If that was the case, the explosive potential of a car would seem to depend on how full the tank was. A full tank would leave little room for vapor. An empty tank wouldn't have enough gasoline vapor. So, hypothetically, a tank that was, perhaps, a third full might maximize the explosive potential of a burning car. Of course, that still left open the question of whether or not such an explosion could actually happen.

At which point my reverie was interrupted by a pair of deep, throaty "whumps," heard more with my ribs than my ears. These were accompanied by the screech of metal, and the sound of shouted profanity.

And so, I received my answer.

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