The Stupid Car Fire Incident

I wrote the following piece for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, e-mailed (not by me) to selected people; so, to increase any possible audience, I’m publishing it here.  Thanks for reading.

BUT FIRST:  OOPS! My silkscreeners had a bit of a problem with my latest Original Erwin t-shirts. It seems 16 of the twenty shirts were printed with the logo on the front upside down.  SO, there are four available at Tyler Meeks’ Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange, and, I’m figuring the rest will be more valuable… eventually.

 

Next week there will be quite a few Disco Bay t-shirts ready, logo (hopefully right side up) on the front, two different versions on the back.

 

     I’ll let you know when they’re available.  Pretty excited.

What Could (Possibly) Go Wrong?

It was dark; so dark, and stormy; and my car was parked just off the fog line, on the shoulder of highway 101.  The hood was up and there was a fire in the engine compartment.

Fire!

Yeah, fire; and I had no extinguisher, no water; and, again, my car was on fire!

Okay. “Sure,” you say, “How did… I mean, fire… how could this happen?”

STUPIDITY.

WELL.  My 1985 Toyota Camry wagon, my surf rig, did have a bit of an oil leak.  Slight, and somewhat mitigated/slowed, if not stopped by the addition of some sort of treatment.  BUT I had made a couple of surf trips (140 miles, round trip, to my favorite spot), and wasn’t at all sure when I’d last checked the oil level.

Not at all sure.  This is the thing.  It wasn’t just the oil.  I had purchased two items at Tootsies Drive Through in Sequim; a swiss cheese mushroom burger (on sour dough- this will come up later) for me; and a Wild West burger, with a sweet barbecue sauce and lots of onions (on a regular-type bun), for Trish.  Her burger comes with onion rings (weird), but Trish prefers those on the side (and Tootsies agreed), and no mayonnaise (“No problem,” the Tootsies ‘order here’ voice said). 

One sandwich/burger was to bring home, one was for me; and I was hungry.  I had already made the rounds in Sequim: Home Depot for, among other things, various dimensions of eight foot lumber, pushed over the passenger seat, and onto the dashboard, Costco for multiple packs and/or mega-sized this and that, Office Depot for artsy stuff, Michaels for some t-shirts for my Original Erwin line of, obviously, Original Erwin t-shirts, WalMart for cheaper prices (not arguing cheaper than where) on some grocery items.

Tootsies was my last stop. 

I must back-track here.  Tootsies is kind of the expensive version of Frugal Burger, a drive-through in Port Angeles.  Both offer various burgers including one with mushrooms, my favorite (not, along with avocado, Trisha’s).  So, a while back, up in PA, Trish was driving and I was hungry.  She ordered her condiment-specific burger, and I got the mushroom burger.  When we got home, it was discovered that I had, possibly due to some inherited lack of tastebuds and discretion, eaten her burger.  She was pretty upset; and, understandably, refused to eat the mushroom burger.  So, of course, I did.

This act was, Trish maintains, another one of my ‘GREEDY FAT BOY TRICKS,’ learned, practiced and perfected (possibly) because I was the second oldest of seven children, and, from an early age, made brown bag lunches for my parents and siblings.  Four cookies each… chomp, chomp… three cookies each… you get the idea.  Greedy fat boy tricks.

So, the FRUGAL INCIDENT was kind of on my mind when, not quite out of Sequim, I chomped into one of the two plain-paper-wrapped Tootsies burgers.  I actually called Trish.  Again, it was dark, the weak little overhead light in the Toyota not nearly enough to discern between a sourdough bun (mushroom burger) and a regular one (Trisha’s).  “Does it taste sweet?” “Um, uh… sweet?”

I STOPPED EATING.

BUT, on the Quilcene side of the short passing zone, a couple miles south of the 7 Cedars Casino, I thought I heard something over the noisy muffler, something different than the noisy fan motor.  Maybe it was rods knocking.  Maybe.  I could just pull over, add a little oil.

No problem; right?

Well, I turned the engine off, left the lights on, popped the hood release, grabbed a quart of oil from the back of the wagon, raised the hood, and used my cell phone to help find the place where one puts the oil (let’s call it the oil receptacle). 

EVIDENTLY, while leaning over to remove the oil receptacle cap, the bottom of the quart container melted on something hot (radiator? Manifold?), and, unaware of this, I moved the leaking quart toward the back of the engine, and enough spilled onto the still-hot manifold to, um, uh, ignite. 

FIRE! WHOA! 

NOW, by way of further over-explanation, I have had two other engine fires in my long career as a car killer; didn’t drive away from either of them. So, “NOOOO!”

I sprang into action. I knew I had a towel in the backseat, but, in the dark, in my haste, I mistakenly grabbed my sixty-dollar Hobie’s Surf Shop hooded sweatshirt, and stuffed it into the sort of valley, engine-wise (if you need an image, imagine the bottom of a hibachi), not quite fully smothering the fire. 

“LIQUID!”  What?  I grabbed the Costco three pack of one percent milk (half gallon each), ripped open the box, pulled the little plastic stopper out of the spout on the middle one, and poured about a third of it onto the sweatshirt and fire.

SIZZLE.  STEAM.  White steam. Yeah, but the fire was extinguished.

NOW WHAT?  Things had to cool down.  Would the car start?  Light; I needed light.  Oh, I had no flashlight in this vehicle, but, wait; yeah; I had just purchased a three pack of flashlights at Costco.  They were, of course, packaged in that sort of plastic and cardboard encasement that guarantees no one without scissors, pliers, and a hammer can open it. 

Unless one is desperate, in the dark, cars and trucks whizzing by.  I ripped open the package, several AAA batteries (handily included) falling out to the pavement.  To make it work, two batteries would have to go one way, two the other.  50 percent chance, and my cell phone’s battery was (all the using it as a light) down to 42 percent.

YES, the flashlight worked.  Now I could, at least, survey the damage.  The engine’s still sizzling; too hot to check the oil level.

So, I waited.  I’m not good at waiting.  Probably six minutes after the fire went out, I dropped the hood, said a little prayer (with appropriate hand gestures), and turned the key. 

Bbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrroooooo-ooowm.  Ignition.  YES!

The car and I made it home.  I guess Trish was happy about that. I had, however, again, eaten half (I thought it was more like a third) of Trisha’s burger. She, not surprisingly, refused to eat the remaining portion; repeatedly pointing out the obvious difference between a hamburger bun and whatever one calls a round piece of sourdough bread, cut in the middle to accommodate things like meat, cheese, my ‘beloved’ (her word, but accurate) mushrooms.

Oh. Uh huh.  So, greedy fat boy trick, I got both.

I checked the oil the morning after the STUPID CAR FIRE INCIDENT.  Not actually low.  Hmm.  OH, YEAH. Evidently what I misheard as engine knocking was from the vibration of the various-sized pieces of wood.  OH, and I do now have a flashlight AND a fire extinguisher, and, oh, my Hobie’s Surf Shop hoodie might not be, um, toast… does smell a little… milky.  I’m optimistic.      

 

One thought on “The Stupid Car Fire Incident

  1. An upside down illustration…no doubt a gift from the universe. A great representation of the mysto land that is the Strait and the endless…skunks. We’d wear one.

    p.s. Glad to hear you did not incinerate ones self and wagon.

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