I worked for the Mechanical Engineering Department
and we lent ourselves out to an industrial concern making coal gas near Fort Snelling. Coal gas is made by letting coal partially burn to carbon monoxide and then using the carbon monoxide as a fuel. It was a pretty big plant. Coal gassification was big in the mid '80's, but in the end went nowhere. We students took samples of the coal that was burned and did instrument readings and such. Once a week I worked overnight. Bob Boots ran the overnight crew, and the boys drank a bit. The first night they surprised me and gave me a beer. I drank it with them. But I didn't drink with them anymore. That was okay, I guess they figured I wouldn't turn them in since I had a drink too.

There was a program on at six in the morning in those days called "Morning Workout" or something to that effect. My God, it was pure porn. Pretty, sexy young women bending and posing wearing skimpy attire. Trust me on this one - this was a great great program! The boys had a little TV in the control room. Each midnight shift I worked, at six a.m. the four of us would gather to watch our half hour show.

That morning at five minutes to six Bob wasn't around. So I took the microphone and announced over the plant loudspeaker, "Bob Boots report to the control room for Morning Workout".  The crew laughed as Bob returned. At seven I walked down below the control room past the Cyclone to go outside to gather readings. As I passed, yellow-brown smoke burped from the Cyclone. I assumed it was Bob getting even for the loudspeaker announcement. But when I opened the door ten minutes later, the whole four story building was full of this yellow-brown gas. To make things worse, a sparking wire hung off the bottom of the Cyclone motor. I ran back outside, ran down two flights of stairs, ran around to the other side of the building and ran up to the control room. Bob Boots' eyes were wide open. "What's going on!", he wanted to know. I didn't know - I told him about the sparking wire. Bob hit the evacuation alarm. He stayed, the other guys and I left.

I ran to the U.S. Bureau of Mines building and called the fire department. Maybe that was stupid. I thought the Coal Gas Building was going to explode. Why I thought the Fire Dept. could help I guess I can't explain. Giant fans? Anyway, they came, and entered a perfectly clear building. No yellow-brown smoke. They left. Bob Boots kind of covered up for me, but I tried to make it clear that it was me who decided to call the fire department. Anyway, Bob Boots' company paid for the fire run, and he didn't seem to be mad at me. What happened to all that gas? Bob said the sparking motor started a fireball that started in the lower first floor corner of the building and whooshed up to the fourth floor! The pressure created by the fireball was such that the explosion vents handled it. One student co-worker told me I panicked. Maybe I did. I soon quit that job anyway.


Return to  informationhighwaytohell.com        Return for  more Monologue