Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An Alarming Aroma...

The last two weekends I've been doing my supervisor a huge favor. I've been covering a guy's shift down in Tazwell County, Virginia. It's about a two hour drive from my place in Athens to this coal mine. I've been working the past two Saturdays and Sundays from 6 PM to 6 AM. Long shifts, made even longer by the drive to and from work.

What makes these shifts even longer is the fact that all I do is sit in the mine office and answer the mine squawk-box and the phones, which never ring.

Twelve hours with nothing to do...

Idle minds do some stupid things, or more like it, idle minds decide that doing a certain thing is a great idea but in retrospect was really stupid.

I did the New York Times Sunday crossword, and had finished the book I was reading. It was 2 AM and still had four hours to go and not even a radio to listen to.

I began walking around the office looking at all the things laying around. Coal miners carry a bunch of stuff with them to keep them safe and to warn them of dangers lurking deep underground. It's a dangerous job, one that I wouldn't do.

I picked up a little metal box with a keypad and belt clip. I examined it and discovered it was a methane detector.

Here's where my idle mind almost got me in trouble...

Hmmmmmm. Methane. Isn't that what the Government spent millions of dollars studying a few years back? Methane from cows?

Or to be more specific, cow farts.

That's interesting. Farts are methane. Methane is flammable, which explains generations of teenage boys lighting their farts on fire for laughs. So hence, the methane detector for the miners. You don't want an explosive gas down in the mines where you are working.

Here's where I should have put the thing down, but boys will be boys...

I turned it on and it seemed to be working. All the lights were flashing green. Said "OK" on the LCD on the front. Now earlier my lunch consisted of two of those frozen Swanson's microwave fish stick & macaroni and cheese entrees.

I was a tad bit flatulent.

So I decided to test it...

I placed the detector in the most obvious place and floated the best air-biscuit I could muster...

This is when I realized two very, very important things:

1) I had no idea how sensitive this methane detector was...

2) I also had no idea this thing was connected by antenna to a central alarm system thought the mine complex...

The alarms went flashing and sounding rather loudly and over the din, I hear the squawk-box buzz. It was the mine superintendent. He asked me to check the computer to see who's detector was going off. I checked and it came back no one's detector was going off ( I had immediately shut the one I was playing with off ) so it must have been a false alarm I told him. He asked me to reset the alarm and write up the report as a false alarm.

At the end of the shift I somehow couldn't look anyone of the miners in the face...

But someone did ask his buddy within earshot of me as he was walking out "Hey, do you smell that?" and turned and winked at me... I've been snagged!

I just hope I don't have to go down there again...


Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

4 comments:

Becky said...

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. I can just see this happening. In fact, I know at least three people who would've succumbed to the same boredom and pulled the same... uh, stunt.

And now you know why high school and college guys (and the occasional National Guardsman on a drill weekend) like to play with matches. Methane's highly flammable. :)

Kat_womanx2 said...

This would only be funnier, if by chance, this alarm activated an emergency response team to come rolling in...haz mat trailer, fire department, scene control coordinators and of course an ambulance crew with O2 tank and non rebreather in hand...I would have sat in the floor and pee'd my pants laughing !!

Sydney said...

Oh now that is fucking FUNNY!

Denise said...

So....does that mean that coal miners aren't allowed to fart while at work? Isn't that a violation of their constitutional rights in some way? Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Flatulence....