Monday, February 18, 2013

Things Get Worse

Last Friday the Great Spinner of Fate, which of late has had me convinced it needs rebalancing, once again landed on "screw Stevie" and in the early evening the atmospheric thermostat got jammed on "snow"

Over the course of the next 12 hours about two feet of white, fluffy inconvenience distributed itself all over the scenery, then blew about in a wanton fashion, piling up against the front and back doors to about mid-thigh height.

Avid reader of this blog will remember this nonsense and the rigmarole required to liberate the occupants of Chateau Stevie from the horror that is Domestic Bliss avec Mrs Stevie (who does not approve of forced incarceration with others and does not tolerate it well), but on the off-chance a second pair of eyes are at this moment drifting across this text, struggling to remain open, I'll elaborate.

When the snow piles up against the storm doors like this they cannot be opened as they open outwards. This means that if we are to change the state of affairs, the glass of the storm door must be removed and the snow dug away from the door enough to allow it to once again function as a portal to dominate the weather at the will of the inhabitants rather than the reverse.

So I suited up, grabbed a snow-shovel and tried to unscrew the thumb-screws that secure the little brass tabs that hold the 6 foot by 3 foot sheet of glass into the door frame.

The storm door is a high-quality affair I fitted some 17 years ago of thereabouts, and the thumb-screws are in fact a very clever way of achieving the glass-removal needed when one switches it out for a screen in the summer (which we never do). The back storm door, a rather less expensive model, uses strips of plastic beading which snap into the frame of the door, which makes changing out the glass for the screen (which we do every year) a very much more involved affair requiring the use of a screwdriver as a lever to pry out the plastic strips.

It was this that drove the decision to dig out the front door rather than the back, which would have possibly been more sensible as it would result in being able to open the back gate eventually at the possible risk of my heart bursting with the effort of shifting twelve metric tons of snow with a shovel.

Unfortunately there was a mitigating factor in the ease of glass removal theory, one that has actually been with us from about six months after the door was installed.

We had been to a wake after a very long work day, and returned with the two-year-old Stevieling late in the night, around 10 pm. The Stevieling was on her way to bed and at the very top of the stairs missed her footing, falling like a rag doll down the entire flight of oak stairs, banging each one with her head in an impressive show of attention to detail. I raced to her limp little body just in time to see her eyes roll up in her head. I honestly though she had died. Mrs Stevie had managed to precipitate a phone out of thin air and called the Emergency Services before the child had finished spinning and falling and so it was that the firemen arrived with lots of cars with flashing lights and a humongous truck with searchlights almost before I'd finished screaming.

Now the firemen were the usual crowd of large, dedicated muscular men who are used to charging into places and situations that normal people typically charge away from at high speed, and one of them came charging into the house. Unfortunately, he was unaware that the storm door glass was between him and the injured little girl and he impacted the glass very hard, giving himself a very nasty shock and in all likelihood a minor concussion.

That the glass did not shatter is a testament to the strength and quality of the material. That it did not spring free of the retaining mechanism is a testament to the design of those thumb-screws and little brass tabs. Unfortunately, something had to give, and the mountings for the screws were severely bent out of true. Visually, not by much, but the result is that the mechanism has never really been as easy to release as it was designed to be.

Fortunately I have a belt with many wondr'ous tools hung upon it, and a large reservoir of various classes of Words or Power, from those useful in loosening pickle jar lids to those more suited to scorching paint off various surfaces, so this was a matter of assembling the Mighty Leatherman Crunch vise-grip wrench and "clearing the guns" with some class two's.

In no time at all I had the glass1 out and had shoveled enough snow away from the house to allow me to step through the door and close the front door behind me which prevented the cold wind blowing in and Mrs Stevie's vile invective from blasting out.

I shoveled off the steps and then retrieved the glass and attempted to fit it outside. Naturally, this was when the wind went from being a mild breeze to a force ten gale gusting in all directions. This turned the sheet of glass from a cosmetic house feature into a 18 square foot spinnaker-come-hang-glider, and I was blown hither and yon across the porch, crashing into things, mostly the stoop rail which badly needs replacing and cannot seriously be relied upon as a human pinball buffer without a certain amount of bowel-loosening trepidation. I escalated matters with some Class Threes and eventually managed to get the glass back in the door frame.

And had to remove it again because ice and snow had built up in the seals and the glass wouldn't seat and then the wind came up again and there was the bloody door handle making it more difficult that necessary, but eventually, by using both hands to steer, one foot as a jack to control vertical alignment and my head to control the vertical tilt I got the glass back in the frame and the little brass tabs snugged up.

I went back inside and ordered The Stevieling to dig out one (1) path to the garage with enough clearance to open the door and liberate Troll, the Snowblower of Supreme Spiffiness while I had some tea.

Once the kid was back inside I opened up the garage and my collection of Class Fours, for in the general chaos of the storm and the other storm and Christmas and the storm I had forgotten to lay out a flying lead between the power tap at the rear of the house (that stays dry because it is under the kitchen floor overhang) after my old extension cord was stolen and all my cords were buried in snow. Furthermore, the Ground Fault had triggered with all the damp.

This meant that there was no electricity with which to turn over the engine of Troll.

Troll has a pull-start, but only a madman would expect the engine to start this side of Pancake Tuesday by pulling on it. But all was not lost because I have a generator. Not only that, it has proved repeatedly to be the most ridiculously easy machine to pull-start that I have ever personally started. Not only that, the genny was right next to Troll. For once, Fate was not peeing in my boots.

So I switched on the ignition, turned on the gas, and pulled on the string, which is where I discovered that because of the extreme cold the oil in the sump had turned to taffy and I almost ruptured myself as the generator lifted off the floor and dangled by the pull start.

By sitting on the genny and pulling the string upwards as though it were some sort of aerobic equipment I finally persuaded the bloody thing to start. Then I connected it to Troll and pushed the start button - instant roar of internal combustion.

Also instant fug of incompletely combusted fuel exhaust. I reeled from the smoke-filled garage, ears bleeding from the combined roar of the genny and Troll, both of which are fitted with only a rudimentary muffler, or "pipe" as engineers call it.

Once I could hear again I shut down the genny and wheeled out Troll to begin the process of moving the two feet of snow from my driveway into Mr Singh's front lawn2 and my back yard.

I opened the gas tank of Troll to confirm the gas level and discovered that the tank was only about one third full. I realized that I had forgotten two things: To fill Troll's gas tank, and to remove the five gallons of gas I have in a can from the back yard shed and put it in the garage ready for use. Not only that, the gas can I had in the garage was bone dry. So I treated the neighbors, alerted by the mighty sounds of internal combustion to the possibility, to an impromptu display of The Bonehead Dance and some Class Fours with Class Threes for adjectival emphasis.

Then I realized that the thing I could see lying on the garage floor in plain sight was an ancient siphon I bought when the house was new and hadn't been able to find since. It must have been thrown up by the Crapier, the pile of Christmas lights, boots, sleeping bags and half-used paint cans that slowly oozes from the garage at all times under the force of its own weight, carving out the concrete as it goes. I had a siphon. I had an empty gas can. I had a generator with a three-quarter full gas tank. Something had gone right! Yazoo!

I picked up the siphon, a long tube, a rubber bulb and a short tube. The short tube snapped off.

No problem, I'd just point the bulb into the gas can. The can has a wide neck. Then the valve in the bulb broke, so I tossed the bulb and resolved to use the traditional suck method. Poke the tube in the gas tank, suck until the gas flows, stick the tube in the can and vomit copiously from the taste of the gas.

This went almost exactly the opposite as planned.

The tube was very stiff from the cold and refused to adopt any other shape than the demented stretched and bent bedspring shape it had on the floor of the garage. The gas vaporized so quickly it took forever to get the siphon flowing and then when I poked the tube in the gas can it slipped out of my grasp and span round in circles spritzing the genny, the garage and me with gasoline.

I finally filled the can and then Troll and started blowing the snow, which was deeper than the 24 inch scoop on Troll by as much as three inches in places.

It took almost three hours to clear the drive, including the part where I needed to move the fabulous Steviemobile and couldn't no matter how much I dug with a shovel behind the wheels. Turned out there was so much snow wind-packed under the car it was causing the vehicle to toboggan on its underframe3 but by some miracle I didn't damage the car moving it.

I moved so much snow that The Stevieling was able to walk over the fence on a ramp of relocated snow to dig out the back while I was drinking more tea.

  1. Which weighs a ton
  2. Well, he's not using it and I dig out his cars too
  3. A Bad Thynge as all will know who've driven a mud road and plunged into ruts left by logging trucks, since the brake pipes and exhaust lie beneath the frame and can be squished and torn away by such tobogganing. Nothing beats the excitement of a sudden tobogganing at high speed on a mud road slicker than wet soap than regaining the wonderfully tractive surface of tar only to discover you have no brakes