Fun With Batteries...

Don’t try this.

I’m driving along the streets of Washington, D.C., dodging potholes recently sharpened and deepened by conscientious road crews, when it suddenly occurred to me that my lap was on fire. This doesn’t happen much—in fact not at all—unless you count our family Advent ritual: Dad’s yearly “Spilling of the Hot Cocoa” after cutting down a Christmas tree. It’s a picture-postcard scene: the tree tied to the roof of the car, kids bundled against the brisk winter air, their faces wreathed in the warming steam from Mom’s thermos, and Dad running around in circles yelling “EEECH! OOCH! IT’S HOT!” as a spilled cocoa stain spreads over his pantlegs.

But this was not steam filling up the inside of my car. This was smoke. It was coming from my right pocket, which was also oozing burning liquid onto my leg (like in the movie Alien where somebody foolishly tries to cut off a tentacle from one of those little monster guys and this acid gunk gushes out and almost burns its way through the spaceship. It felt exactly like that, except Sigourney Weaver wasn’t in my car to help me. Although a friend told me once that Alien wasn’t a true story.)

No stranger to crisis decision-making, I knew that quick thinking was required. In rapid-fire sequence my mind raced through the measures needed to resolve your typical burning pants emergency:

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1996
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