On the Flammability of Liquids

Although MythBusters said it couldn’t happen, I still don’t recommend this activity

On the Flammability of Liquids
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi / Unsplash

While MythBusters said it couldn’t happen, I still don’t recommend this activity

I’m probably 15 or 16 years old riding around the metropolis of Saraland, Alabama with two guys I knew from our neighborhood.

My two companions needed a resupply of nicotine so we stop at a gas station.

Darren pulls within a few feet of a large gasoline tanker, which is unloading gasoline into an underground storage tank. We are literally five feet from the tanker’s hose, which snakes its way from the tanker, along the ground, and finally into an underground tank.

Through the window, I see small puddles of water. Or maybe it’s gasoline — I don’t know the effectiveness of Billy Wayne’s gasoline-pouring ability.

Gary is in the front seat smoking a cigarette. I don’t know why. He seems reasonably intelligent.

Gary rolls down his window as the wind blows the rain inside the car. Billy Wayne is just standing there doing his job.

The thing that  Gary threw out of his window got Billy Wayne’s immediate attention.

Apparently, Gary was tired of smoking. So, what’s a guy to do with a lit cigarette while parked next to a guy refueling gasoline tanks at a gas station?

That’s right.

Throw it out of the window in the general direction of the tanker. Where a great deal of flammable gas vapor was just hanging around.

And, here’s what I thought was going to happen:

The (still burning) cigarette would ignite the gasoline vapor and instantaneously create a fireball that would obliterate the tanker, Billy Wayne, Gary, me (in the backseat, who was innocent I might add) the whole block surrounding the gas station, and Darren who was exiting the store with his new pack of wintergreen flavored Skoal in his front shirt pocket.

And instead of remembering that section of Saraland, Alabama merely for its illegally dumped toxic chemicals at Saraland Apartments, that little block of town would be known as “Garey's Folly” or some other such cleverly descriptive name.

But, it didn’t happen like that.

The aforementioned (still burning) cigarette sailed through the humid South Alabama air and landed gently, like the droppings of a large blackbird, at the feet of Billy Wayne, who, perhaps not unsurprisingly, showed concern and disapproval as the cigarette butt slowly died out at his feet.

When we didn’t turn into a flaming wasteland, I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer of thanks.

Darren emerged from the store with more nicotine, oblivious to his near-death experience.

But, Billy Wayne, Gary, and I knew just how (potentially) close we had come to becoming flame-broiled.

As Darren sat down, Gary encouraged him to rapidly leave the premises.

Which he did.

Subscribe to Mistakes were Made

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.