Wednesday, October 22, 2008

As A Matter Of Fact, Living Forever Is Pretty High On My Want List

The pacing in my life often resembles an old Donald Duck movie I once saw that was made to promote safety in the home.

Specifically, it resembles the scene where Donald Duck is taking a bath. He is very happy indeed, quacking a song at the top of his voice and scrubbing the sole of a webbed foot with a loofah, when the mains-connected valve1 radio he has balanced on the rim of the bath falls into the water and he suffers several amusing seconds of graphic electrocution resulting in an abrupt change in mood. This sudden shift from warm and fuzzy to mind-bendingly hazardous danger is one I am well acquainted with.

Case in point.

A few weeks ago I was driving along the Long Island Expressway at some speed2. I had had an argument with the members of the Stevie Millstone Party and was coming down from an impressive rage by listening to some public radio while cooling both my temper and my body by means of the superb air conditioning that forms such an essential part of the Fabulous Steviemobile's ambience. I leaned back and engaged the cruise control. I had just got into a relaxed groove and was for the first time that day getting my blood pressure down to safe levels when the air was rent by a loud CRACK!

I let out a manly falsetto scream while the car attempted some involuntary evasive action by crossing two or three lanes a few times.

In a matter of seconds I had used up my entire stock of class five Words of Power, regained control of the vehicle and ascertained that I had not, as I feared, been shot by some sniper and that some vital component of the car had not failed in order that I might experience severe injury first-hand.

Before anyone sneers at this assessment, I should point out that during my youth I had each front wheel shear away from the chassis of my TR6 on consecutive trips, and once the roof ripped off at 110 mph and gave everyone inside a damn good thrashing about the head which wasn't at all conducive to safe driving. On another occasion I was pulling out of a factory carpark at rush hour and the throttle linkage broke and the engine went, of its own accord, to maximum revs in works traffic. Cars have tried to assassinate me more times than I can remember. Not only that, idiot snipers are a real, if rare, fact of American life.

Once my heart rate had stabilised to around 400 beats per minute and I had the car going in a straight line again I looked around the Steviemobile and discovered the cause of all the fuss. A plastic waterbottle lay in the footwell with a small dent in it. It had clearly been drained by its owner on some boiling hot day, then abandoned after securing the airtight top in the natural place to dump garbage: the footwell of my car. Once the A/C was turned on, the car cooled down to bearable temperarture (I like to be able to keep luncheon meat fresh in my pockets when I select the temperature on my A/C) the air in the bottle had contracted according to the laws of thermodynamics until the plastic bottle had reached some crisis point and deformed suddenly.

If only the bottle's former owner had been present to appreciate this demonstration of Boyles Law.

  1. US Vacuum tube
  2. Or other. I wasn't watching the speedometer officer

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