I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 123 - Of Zeppelins and Physics

Klowns In My Koffee is delighted to feature a warm and humorous essay by frequent commenter and good friend, Corsair09. This work was previously published in his blog, Corsair's Place: Mundane Observations of the Stunningly Banal, and re-published with his permission.

Of Zeppelins and Physics
I find myself thinking about my Dad a lot these days. He died more than ten years ago, but I still feel his presence in my life. This could be due to the fact that my son now sleeps in the room on the family farm where he grew up. Or it could be due to my latent interest in motorcycles and other machinery. But mostly, I feel his watchful gaze on me when I do something really stupid.

You may remember I mentioned in an earlier blog that my father ran a scrap yard. This is a wonderful/terrible place for a kid to spend time. As I relate some of the things I did as a kid to my wife, she is ever more convinced that I should not have survived to adulthood. One such incident was the Zeppelin experiment.

“Steve” was a friend of mine and we shared some similar interests. One day, when we were about ten or eleven years old, we decided to re-enact the crash of the Hindenburg. After school, we went to the local dime store and purchased one of those SUPER-sized balloons that you used to be able to buy. These things were huge. When fully inflated, they were about six feet long and perhaps three feet in diameter. They cost a whole dollar and were worth every penny. We then took the monster balloon to “The Shop,” as my Dad’s junkyard was called, and after a careful look around for unwanted witnesses, began to inflate the balloon with propane from the cutting torch. After several minutes, the balloon began to take shape and was quite a sight to see. We were so excited by the success of this mission that we had not given much thought to the method of detonating our new blimp. After a brief discussion with my co-conspirator, we tied off the now massive balloon and I went to get one of my precious M-80s and a roll of duct tape.

At this point in my narrative, I would like to take a moment and say a few words about explosives. The 1970’s were the last, great golden age for fireworks. In those halcyon days, if a kid had connections, he could amass enough firepower to blast a train tunnel through the Rockies. Today, the children of America are reduced to waving ineffectual sparklers and watching those black carbon “snakes” wiggle their way across driveways of suburbia. This is pitiful. Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but in my day, there was a certain Darwinian elegance about fireworks. A stupid kid would blow himself up, or at the very least lose some fingers early on in his experimentation with explosives, and that would be that. Future potential mates could then tell simply by looking that this kid would not make a good husband and father, because if they can’t get the mechanics of lighting a firecracker down, God help them when it comes time to run a lawn mower or fix a car.

OK. Got that off my chest. Anyway, there we were affixing the method of destruction to the flank of our makeshift Zeppelin. We had visions of the great beast rising majestically into the air and then bursting into flame high over our heads, just like in the old newsreel of the real Hindenburg. In fact, we began to worry about just how high the balloon might rise before exploding. We didn’t want the whole town to see our little experiment, for we felt sure that others just would not understand our particular brand of genius, and might attempt to stop our efforts to expand science. Therefore, we decided that the fuse of the M-80 should be shortened somewhat to reduce the risk of high altitude detonation.

All was ready. The balloon was filled to maximum capacity with propane. M-80 was attached and waiting. I struck a match and lit the fuse and told Steve to, “Let her go!” The great beast wallowed in the freshening breeze, and then…

…began to sink to our feet.

Up to that point, it had never occurred to us that unlike hydrogen, propane was heavier than air. We looked at each other. The same cold look of realization was etched on our young faces. We ran. We ran like no two kids have ever run before. We must have covered a good twenty feet when a loud “BANG-WHUMP” erupted behind us. I felt the wave of heat race up my back. Hairs on the nape of my neck curled. We threw ourselves into the tall grass of the ditch on the far side of the road and covered our heads, expecting a massive fireball to engulf us at any moment. For long seconds, I lay there thinking to myself that I really hadn’t had a bad life, if a bit short, and if I had to die, it was at least in the cause of science. After a time, we realized that we were not bound for the next world and looked over the edge of the ditch. No trace remained of our ill-fated airship. Not even a scorch mark remained to testify to its brief existence. Steve suddenly decided that he was probably needed at home for chores and left the scene as fast as his Schwinn would carry him.

I went to put the torch back in the shop and saw my Dad leaning against the door. He had been watching for some time, I think. Why he let us carry on with our experiment I have no idea. The look he gave me was one of amusement. “That was kinda dumb, don’t you think?” he said. “Yeah, I guess it was.” It was all I could say. He looked down at me. “Are you gonna do that again?” he asked. “No sir,” says I. A few moments pass. “Good,” he says. “Put the torch away and let’s get you home for dinner.”

He has been gone for ten years. I still feel his eyes on me when I do something stupid though. “That was dumb. You gonna do that again?” I seem to hear. And when I do, I smile and whisper to myself, “No sir.”


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