Dateline: sometime in the future
Some workers returned to work today stepping carefully through puddles of flame that sputtered like butane torches along the main driveway leading to Pistol Whip Fresh Air Works.
The factory produces fresh air for markets in major west coast high population centers. Shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon as a shift change was in progress the facility was engulfed in flames.
The fiery eruptions in front of the factory are reminiscent of an apocalyptic movie scene.
First reports are that 4000 pounds of highly flammable liquid oxygen have escaped and migrated into Lake Pistol Whip freezing it solid. Some I have spoken with suggest the amount of oxygen may be three times that much.
Wikipedia reveals this about the properties of liquid oxygen. “Because of its cryogenic nature, liquid oxygen can cause the materials it touches to become extremely brittle. Liquid oxygen is also a very powerful oxidizing agent: organic materials will burn rapidly and energetically in liquid oxygen. Further, if soaked in liquid oxygen, some materials such as coal briquettes, carbon black, etc., can detonate unpredictably from sources of ignition such as flames, sparks or impact from light blows. Petrochemicals, including asphalt, often exhibit this behavior.”
Jim Dumshitz plant manager explained to Pie in the Face News that the accident occurred when one employee left an oxygen transfer tank unattended and punched out when his shift was up.
"It would have been okay," Dumshitz explained," if the second shift personnel had not been late for work. It's just one of those things, but it sure causes a lot of problems. We have strict accounting guidelines on punching out more than 3 minutes late. He could have been disciplined if he had stayed longer. He did everything by the book."
April Waters from the department of lakes and natural resources was on the scene surveying the catastrophe. Pie in the Face News asked her concerns. "Well it is a lot of oxygen. So we have to deal with that. We're still trying to determine how it ended up in the lake. We think some underground pipes burst. Most likely it was caused by ground movement. There's a lot of seismic activity in this area but no one wanted to hear it when they were planning.
"We're certain the fish have died. They were flash frozen. Best estimates are that the lake will remain frozen solid for at least a week as it evaporates before leaving a big puddle of mud and rotting fish. I don't want to alarm you, but there is a very real chance it can all go boom.
“Right now the entire lake is approximately -250 degrees (F). We urge people not to skate on the ice with steel blades and especially not to smoke nearby until the lake is fully melted. Here we are in the middle of a July heat wave and those rotting fish are going to be a serious public health problem. The village can’t afford the overtime to deal with it. It’s a mess anyway you look at it."
Pie in the Face News spoke with two of the arriving employees, Robin Fish and Harry Bush. I asked if they had concerns about returning to work.
Bush spoke first. "No more than usual, not after Jim called, he’s there now. This was bound to happen anyhow. I'm really surprised it took so long. Jim said everything was under control now."
Fish interrupted adding. "That's an understatement. I've been expecting it any day. I can point out 5 safety problems which would get us shut down if somebody reported them."
“Besides that,” Bush added, “ we make an essential product and those that need fresh air just can’t wait because of an accident.”
I asked Bush a follow-up question: "You said Jim called, did you mean the plant manager, Jim Dumshitz?
"Yeah, he said he really needed to get the line running and he'd appreciate it if we came in. We need the work anyhow. I was glad to go. It’s rough, man."
“We couldn’t afford to miss any time.” Fish gulped as she looked toward the factory. I’m just glad it happened at the end of the shift.”
The pair turned and trudged toward the factory through puddles of flame that lapped around them. The sight of them disappearing behind the factory doors left me thinking what a pair of fools they are. It brought to mind an old Jim Morrison rap.
This has been a NEWS FROM THE FUTURE feature with Pie in the Face News reporting on the scene of this completely fictional event.
I hope the story made you laugh and think.
a Clear Running Water state of mind
© 2013 David H. Roche