Watching Stupid

Today's Post

One day in the early-1950s when I arrived to work my after-school shift at the Firestone fuel station in Alexandria, MN, there was an 18-wheeler gas tanker parked along the curb.

I’d never been there when a delivery was made. There was a smell of raw gas, so I thought the delivery process had been completed. The driver wasn’t filling the underground tanks or getting a tire change that I hoped I’d not have to do.

Part of my job at the station was to do truck tire changes if the Firestone tire shop was closed for the night or too busy. I’d been carefully instructed to ensure a chain was locked around the split rims most trucks had in those days. There were stories about them popping and removing the hand or head of a worker. I heeded that instruction and even double chained all but the 16-inch rims.

A guy who had seniority wasn’t as good at rule following. No, he didn’t get injured, but the removable part of a split rim was propelled across the street and took out the Firestone store display window. He got fired and I got extra shifts.

A mobile welding company truck pulled up and the driver asked me if I was the one who reported the leak. I didn’t know initially that he was referring to the fuel truck. The welding truck driver put cones across the street about 50 feet in front and back of the fuel truck so there was no access to the station. My boss called for me to come across the street to the Firestone tire showroom.

From the replaced display window previously broken by the flying rim, we watched the welder go atop the fuel tank, open a lid vent, and ignite the fumes. Then we watched him weld a small crack along the base of the tank. There was a little flame along the crack while he was welding, but not much. The welder’s explanation was that by lighting the fuel vapors on top and allowing a little burn at the leak, the tank wouldn’t explode.

One of us asked how he knew, and his reply was that he had been doing that for many years and never had a failure.[mfn]I also learned that he made $75 an hour for that kind of welding. I earned $0.75 for the hour I watched.[/mfn]

We were all certainly foolish for standing in a window across the street from a potential explosion that could wipe away all the buildings in that block or more.

Well, OK, then! I was the only young one there, so who was the most guilty of don’t do watching stupid?

There are still more of my don’t do stupid stories. As before, This link tells where I got the idea.