Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trying to kill myself, Part Deux

Well, it's more like "Eric trying to burn his house down AND kill himself, AND kill his kids, dogs, lizard, and goldfish" but that title was too long.

So I get a new backpacking stove off Ebay a while back, almost identical to the one I had on the spring backpacking trip. Last night at about 8:03 p.m. I think to myself, "Self, you really oughta try that stove out before you head into the woods with it this weekend." So I grab the stove, and head upstairs to the attic (where the fuel canisters are ... with my backpack.) Now I know you are thinking, "He's not dumb enough to light a stove in his attic. Not Eric!" (At least humor me and tell me that's what you are thinking.) I hook the stove up to the gas canister, briefly think, "I should do this outside." Then my thoughts rapidly switch to, "Eww... it's chilly and damp outside, and I'd have to go down the stairs again..." Then I think, "This really isn't safe." Again, the dude on my other shoulder says something like, "Oh screw it! Light the damn thing!"

So I open the valve a teeny bit, turning the knob in the "anti-clockwise position" as the chinglish instructions said , hit the nifty piezo igniter, and the stove fires right up. Nice soft purring blue flame. I let it heat up for thirty seconds or so, then turn it up a little... it's roaring like a jet engine... great flame, lots of heat. I'm impressed. So I think, "I wonder what it's like turned all the way up?" Well, there's only one way to find out. I turn it up, and up, and up until suddenly there is a distinct POP and the little blue flame turns into a three foot tall yellow flame. In my attic. Nipping at the insulation. Trying to remedy the situation, I calmly started turning the knob in the "pro-clockwise position."

Suddenly there is a second POP, followed by a whooshing roaring sound. Now there are two blue and yellow flames shooting out sideways from between the stove and the gas canister like a two headed propane torch, and the entire stove, not just the burner, is enveloped in a large yellow flame. No longer even remotely calm, I actually tried blowing the stove out with my mouth. You'll be shocked, I'm sure, to know that this tactic didn't work.

I turn and run down the stairs, past my sons who are watching from my bedroom and are just standing there like stone statues with HUGE eyes and gaping mouths... I think they were wetting themselves. I screamed, "Out of the way!" and started running down the stairs, three foot yellow and blue plume trailing behind me and burning all the hair off my knuckles and hand. I hear one boy start screaming "Fire! Fire!" Thanks, Einstein. I yell for the boys to get away from me and not follow me, thinking that at any second, this canister is going to turn in to a homemade hand grenade. I get to the front door, now with my hand AND arm feeling kinda burnt, and trailing the scent of burning flesh and hair throughout the house, I grab the front door... it's locked.

See ... there's this project I've been putting off. It just so happens that in certain weather conditions (Say, like, when it's chilly and damp outside) the door swells or shrinks (or the house swells or shrinks, I haven't really taken the time to measure it) and the door becomes nearly impossible to unlock with one hand. So there I was, looking like Richard Pryor on a bad freebase outing with a ticking time bomb of a fuel canister burning the hell out of my right hand, and stupid door that stupid me hasn't fixed firmly locked in my left hand. I think I already mentioned my lack of calmness, but I'll re-emphasis: I was in a full blown panic at this point. I yelled "Fire! Fire!" (Thanks, Einstein) and was about to wet myself. Just as I'm beginning to think that at any second there would be a third, much louder POP followed by a lack of sensation in my right extremities, the lock gives and I yank the door open.

Now remember, dear reader, it's just after 8:00 p.m. on beggars night. Trick or treat has been over for mere minutes. I open the door and hurl the fully engulfed contraption with all of my might like an Irish Protestant with a Molotov cocktail. (Which is an amount of force somewhere between "Palestinian ten year old with rock" and "Irina, the Russian shot put champion with shot put thingy.") The burning stove and canister arc through the dark Halloween sky, flames trailing behind like the tail of a comet. The stove hits the ground, bounces three or four times into the street, and the flames go out. Shocked three foot tall Goblins, X-men, and Power Rangers are looking on from up and down the street.

One of the stove's pot stabilizing arms was slightly bent, but other than that, it's no worse for wear. (I, of course, decided to re-light it once it had cooled off and everything seemed to work fine.) So my pro-tester review of the "Everst ES-102 backpacking stove" is very high marks on durability and heat output, and not so high marks on the flame control mechanism.

I'll let you know how it does on my trip.

Oh, BTW... my wife thinks the funny smell in the house was just from a cheap tea-lite candle I bought at the dollar store. So ... Shhhhhhhhhhh!


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