Friday, May 29, 2009

War Stories Part V - Waldo and the diesel tank

Continuing the sagas and stories of my working life, up to now anyway. If you want to read the preamble, click here to go to the first posting in the series, which contains a short version of my CV.

At the branch of the Plumbers Merchant in which I worked with Waldo (see the previous War Story), for fuelling our delivery vehicle we had our own tank of diesel which was similar to the one in the photo below except it was rectangular, but importantly like the photo it had a wall round the base which formed a sump which accumulated a mixture of rainwater and spilt diesel.

In the winter one year the pipes leading from the tank froze so Springer, the warehouse supervisor, gave Waldo specific instructions to take a blowtorch from stock; play it gently over the frozen pipes to melt the blockage; then finally take some 4" hair felt from stock and lag the pipes with it to prevent future freezing. All pretty straightforward one would think.

Not for Waldo though.

He did as instructed and took a blowtorch from stock and melted the frozen stuff in the pipes, then he took the felt and lagged the pipes, but that's where logic flees because his next action was to get a polystyrene cup from the coffee machine and scoop up some of the mixture of watery diesel from the sump and pour it over the felt lagging, then get the blowtorch again and point it at the by now exceptionally combustible felt.

Can you guess what happened?

Yep, a sheet of flame shot up the side of the building so Waldo didn't hesitate, he ran like fuck all the way down the warehouse and crashed through the door into the office where Springer, the warehouse supervisor who had given him his task, was processing a cash sale through the till.

Waldo screeched to a halt in a cartoon-character fashion as Springer looked up at this sudden violent entry to the normally quiet office, and quickly asked "what's wrong?" to which Waldo, pointing to the till and indicating the fact that Springer was halfway through the process of counting out change, replied "it's OK, I'll wait till you finish that".

Springer duly finished his counting 30 seconds later and said "well, what's up?" to which Waldo screamed "THE BUILDING'S ON FIRE! ".

By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the flames had melted the top half of part of the warehouse external wall (bottom half plain brick, top half clad in a plastic substance from about 10 feet off the ground). The photo on the right was taken only a year or so ago. The diesel tank is long gone, but used to be against the wall just beyond the further away of the two roller shutter doors.

A long time after the event I asked Waldo what had gone through his mind to lead him to do what he did, but he just shrugged and said "Dunno"!

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