FLAMIN’ DECK! –
It had been another Perth scorcher, but worse, it came with strong winds. We’d been busy all day. Branches had been breaking windows, and even some flying roofing material had been the culprit in one instance. Then there was the Thermal Cracking – I’ve talked about that before. I had a young assistant working with me. He was bright eyed and bushy tailed – good and keen. Trouble was; he was a smoker. We were still at it at sundown, but finally finished and were on our way home going west down the freeway, a fireball-red sunset marking the horizon. Jack – well I’d better not use his real name, you don’t really want your stupid mistakes to go down in history on the web – well, Jack wound his window down and lit up a smoke. Traffic was down to a crawl. He threw his match over his shoulder out the window. Now I don’t know if you know, but we glaziers use methylated spirits – lots of it, for cleaning. And we use lots of rags. Now just behind Jack, on my deck, was a large plastic bin filled with bits of rubber, empty silicon tubes, some glass scraps, a couple of plastic containers of meths and a heap of used cotton rags. Perfect.
I didn’t think anything of it; just wound my window up to make sure his cigarette smoke went out his side. But then, cars behind us started tooting. We both looked about to see what the fuss was, couldn’t see anything unusual and anyway, I was supposed to be driving . . . then traffic slowed to a stop and this dude behind us actually opened his door, got out and came rushing up to my window. I was watching him in the rear vision mirror and thoughts of Road Rage flashed through my mind; I locked the door. But he’s tapping frantically on my window and pointing back – to our deck! We both turn around and look out through our rear window – Geeez, we were on fire! And then the traffic snarl freed up and started to flow. We’re in the middle lane with a million cars behind us with hot and frustrated drivers at their wheels. Those further back are starting to toot. What could I do? I mouthed a “Thanks a lot mate.” to the helpful driver giving him a cheery thumbs up, and planted my foot to go with the flow, frantically looking for a break to my left so I can pull across the inside lane and onto the shoulder. The flames are being fanned nicely. Jack’s looking back through the rear window with an expression of guilty awe on his dial; and then, POOOF, a bottle of metho flares and leaps out of the bin onto my deck-matting where the flames spread!
At this stage, fortunately, the drivers behind on all three lanes are all too aware of what’s happening and let me cross over to the shoulder, where I do a nifty hand-brake assisted stop in about three metres (we’re still loaded with broken glass sheets) and I’m out the door yelling at Jack to get the hell out of the seat so I can get the fire extinguisher from behind, where it’s stashed.
Well, after that it was all a bit anti-climactic. Seems, thankfully, no one had called the police so we just cruised on back to the factory with a melted plastic bin that stunk. I met Jack again about two weeks later. He still hasn’t given up smoking, but he tells me he doesn’t carry matches anymore; uses a lighter, puts his buts out in the ash tray now too. He’s learning.