Monday, June 22, 2009

Home Improvement, Post-9/11; Part II: Jackhammers? Who Needs 'Em?

My wife and I had a problem with the "steps" outside our "back door", if you don't mind what you say.

We call it the "back door", but it's at the side of the house, near the back corner. And we called them "steps" but they were actually concrete slabs, stacked and broken.

They were never properly grounded; they had shifted over the years and they were tilted in, toward the house. So water collected there, and the steps were always wet and moldy, except when they were icy, and we'd been hoping they would fix themselves, but that didn't happen, so we decided to do something about them.

At first we thought if we poured a cement cap over them and slanted it away from the house, that would do the trick, but then we had a home building specialist come and look at them and he could see that they were still moving. He told us pouring more concrete over the problem would only make it worse. And it was hard to argue with that.

But I did argue when he said the best thing we could do would be to rent a dumpster, score the concrete with a diamond-tipped saw, bust it up with a jackhammer, and haul it to the dumpster one piece at a time in a wheelbarrow.

"You could do it in a weekend," he said, "but you'd be sore by the time you were done!"

I couldn't believe it! That is so September 10th thinking! It was as if he had never seen the World Trade Center collapse.

I said, "Why don't we just crash an airplane into them?"

He laughed and said "That would be dangerous. What about the neighbors?"

I said, "Look, it's not as if we're trying to bring down a skyscraper. It's probably not even a yard of concrete. We could do it with a little remote-controlled toy. Fill it with kerosene, crash it into the steps. The concrete disintegrates, the wind blows it away. We don't have to carry anything anywhere."

He said, "No, no. You can't do it with fire alone, or with fire and a little bump. You need high-speed impact and a fire. And you don't have a good clear approach here, unless you fly through your neighbor's house. So that's really not a good idea."

I thought I was out of options but then I had a brainstorm. "Let's use the Building 7 method," I said. "We can pulverize the concrete by burning office supplies near it."

So that's what we did. But it took a few tries.

At first, we drilled little holes in the steps, and filled them with pens, pencils and sticky notes, plus some upholstery that I pulled out of an old chair. We lit it all on fire, but nothing happened.

"What have we done wrong?" I wondered, but just for a second. Then I had another brainstorm. "We forgot the diesel fuel!"

We went to a truck stop and bought a container of diesel fuel, sprayed it all over the steps, lit them again ... and again nothing! The fuel burned off, but the steps were still there.

"What else have we forgotten?" It took me a couple of minutes to figure it out.

Then we went to the local mosque, brought a couple of Muslims back with us, set it all up again and got them to light it. It burned a little better, but nothing spectacular, and they watched for a while and left, saying, "It's not happening."

For a while it looked like they were right. We couldn't put the fire out, but it didn't get any bigger, and we figured nothing special was going to happen.

But then a remote studio truck arrived from the BBC, and they did a live broadcast in which a reporter stood in front of our burning steps and announced that they had collapsed!

About ten minutes later the police came along and evacuated the neighborhood, and we all heard what sounded like strings of firecrackers going off, except they were a lot louder than firecrackers. Then we saw a big plume of dust, and it blew away in the wind, and when the police let us come back home, our steps were completely gone!

Unfortunately, most of our neighbors are now dead or dying of lung disease, and we can't use our basement anymore because it contains pools of molten steel. Also, the cops called the feds, who destroyed the mosque and apparently killed a large number of innocent people. But nothing about any of this ever made the news, so who cares?

All in all it worked out pretty well. We didn't have to rent a dumpster, we didn't have to carry anything, and we are now rebuilding our steps. Plus, the mosque is gone.

You don't believe me, do you?

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