When I was a kid I had a book called Mysteries of the Unexplained that contained AMAZING BUT TRUE! stories aimed at stirring the imagination, eliciting a sense of wonder and prolonging the bed-wetting experience by at least three years. I’d huddle beneath the covers with my flashlight and read about strange psychic phenomena documented by real scientists, physicists, private investigators and the occasional freaked-out paranormal expert who, at the end of the story, usually abandoned his profession to become a plumber:
Though the book was mostly about ghosts, aliens, strange disappearances and creepy folklore (…so stand alone in the dark, if you dare. Hold a mirror and repeat the words “Sassafras Sally” And prepare to be slapped by a pair of wet tea bags), it was spontaneous human combustion that really got to me. I think it’s because, in my mind, ghosts, aliens, strange disappearance and folklore could all be avoided by exercising a little caution.
Spot an alien spaceship? Run.
Worried about Sassafras Sally? Introduce her to Chi tea.
Concerned about taking a cruise through the Bermuda Triangle?
Go to Disneyland and settle for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” instead.
But burst into flames in the middle of Mrs. Frump’s sixth-grade classroom, and chances are you’d be reduced to a pair of smoking sneakers long before you could acquire a hall pass and make it to a water source.
Because of this fear, I mapped out the location of every fire extinguisher and water fountain at Jane Adams Elementary, and remained within eight feet of something to douse myself with throughout much of the sixth grade.
Suffice it to say, except for visiting the public pool and local fire station, I missed most of my class field trips.
I’m 50 now and, aside from “All-You-Can-Eat Frijole Night” at Jose’s Cantina, I’ve overcome my fear of spontaneously combusting.
At least until yesterday.
That’s when “Peggy” from our composition department handed me a news article about a man in Warrnambool, Australia, whose clothes spontaneously built up 40,000 volts of static electricity. According to Frank Clewers, he was unaware of being a human power grid until a secretary noticed his shoes were burning a hole in the office carpet. After several awkward minutes of misinterpreting his secretary’s warnings of “You’re sizzling!” and “You’re making my hair stand up!” as sexual innuendo, Frank realized what was happening and contacted the fire department.
Fire official Henry Barton believes it was the combination of Franks’ woolen shirt and synthetic nylon jacket rubbing together that created a charge “just shy of spontaneous combustion.”
I’m no electrician, but had shag carpet been involved, I doubt Frank would still be alive.
After reading about this incident, I thanked “Peggy” (whom I used to like), then slowly removed my nylon coat and wool sweater, trying to generate as little friction as possible, by cutting them from my body with a pair of scissors. That’s because I’m one of those people who’s constantly building up small amounts of static electricity. Our cat became aware of this phenomenon after rubbing on my leg once. This was followed by a loud “pop,” a blue flash, and our cat performing a hissing cartwheel.
Needless to say, thanks to “Peggy,” my condition has now escalated from minor annoyance to full-blown phobia. I no longer leave the house without a copper wire running from my undershorts to the ground, and I go through at least four cans of “Cling Free” a day.
I’m sure I’ll eventually overcome my fear again. In the meantime, I really need to finish mapping out the extinguishers and water sources in our office.
Ned Hickson is a nationally syndicated humor columnist with News Media Corporation and the editor of Siuslaw News. He is also the author of Humor at the Speed of Life, a collection of more than a decade of humor columns; and Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, a writer’s survival guide. Both are available from Port Hole Publishing.
38 thoughts on “What’s more frightening than ghosts? Static electricity”
You know you need to keep your hair away from air-filled balloons, right?
Yes, and I speak from experience. Plus, I have a lot of hair…
Use lots of conditioner…
Lol! Always 😉
Aka the Hindenburg.
And don’t stick your fingers in electrical sockets. 😉
Great. NOW you tell me…
I suggest you also avoid anyone who looks like they might ask you, “Hey, got a light?” just in case fate decides it’s too amusing an opportunity to pass up.
Good idea. Especially if I’ve just had Taco Bell.
I have figured out a foolproof way to avoid spontaneous human combustion. PLAN your human combustion.
But that takes all the spontaneity out of it!
Of course, that’s the point!
And since it’s planned, the liklihood of it ever happening goes down to almost zero.
one man’s fear is another’s static. (einstein said that i think)
With you being an educator, I will go with that…
Don’t eat spicy food. Spicy food toots might make you explode. I hope “toots” is okay to say on your blog. 🙂
Great, I think I just lost my “G” rating…!
Good thing cling free also comes in little sheets. Keep them handy to rub on your hair! LOL 🙂
When you said “little sheets” I thought you were going somewhere else with this… 😉
Get your mind out of the gutter Ned. LOL 🙂
I suggest that you trade your current car for a Tesla, because you may want to avoid ever visiting a gas station.
Also, you’d be able to charge Tesla’s battery just by touching it.
Maybe I’ll just open my own battery charging station? I could sit in a lawn chair, drink margaritas and charge people’s electric cars for a living.
If you can deliver really powerful shocks, you can just charge people simply for living.
Well now you might have to shave you head, and become a nudist? Then at least there would be no clothing or hair spontaneous combustion issues.
Now for the rest of us this could be a whole other issue..
Actually, I think my becoming a nudist would be everyone’s issue…
But at least you wouldn’t spontaneously combust..
Can’t say the same for those around me.
Awe shucks thanks for worrying about others..
Do you what other piece of clothing builds up static electricity? Choir gowns. Just….trust me….
Haha! Probably should start wearing something underneath, Jenn…
It was years ago (I was a pre-teen) and yeah!!! Thank you for that terrifying imagery!
One of the few memories of my grandmother’s house involves my older siblings tricking me into shuffling across the carpet and touching the TV.
Are you sure we aren’t related?
I think you need more cats. And I’m no animal hater, but the possibilities…
Lol! If I could just get them to all hold paws…
Good thing you don’t smoke too! Or do you?? Gosh I hope not.. then you are in real trouble my friend! Real trouble! I would go take all the nylon jackets and wool sweaters out back and
burn themthrow them away! Can’t really burn them because then we have the whole issue with lighters and fire and well.. you know.. spontaneous combustion! Stay away from shag carpet for sure!! 😀
We have all wood floors in our home for a reason…