Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom

O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

Traffic Report Fall Down and Go Boom

Like many Americans, part of my morning routine is to check the traffic report to see if I need to take an alternate route to work. I was a little unprepared for part of the report last week:

"And Garner Road between Rush Street and Newcombe Road is closed due to the detonation of munitions at a recycling plant."

This grabbed my attention for two reasons. First, I live in the Town of Garner, so anytime I hear "Garner" in conjunction with a traffic report, it gets my attention. Second...oh, come on. Do I really need to say the second reason?

For those of you who haven't already gotten it, moments like this are a great argument in favor of Tivo. Rather that just look confusedly at your wife and ask, "Did he really just say 'detonation of munitions at a recycling plant'?" you can look confusedly at your wife, ask "Did he really just say 'detonation of munitions at a recycling plant'?" then back the Tivo up a few seconds to confirm that he really did just say that. You'll still be confused, of course, but at least you can quit worrying that you're losing your hearing.

Apparently a couple of people sold what was originally described as "at least eighteen" anti-tank projectiles off at a metal recycling company, so military experts from a nearby army base were brought in to spend the day (this is all the time it was supposed to take) detonating them. You may ask, "'at least' eighteen"? Yes, that's what the reports said. I love the precision there: "It could be eighteen, it could be forty-seven, it could even be three thousand and twelve for all we know, but you can rest easy knowing that it's not seventeen or less." Gee, thanks. I feel great. But I feel better than the people who live in the area. They were, predictably, evacuated while the munitions were being detonated. But get this: even though the detonations weren't done at the end of the day, the nearby residents were still allowed to return home each night. And here's the part I really don't get: they actually went back! Why? Because, I suppose, nothing says "Home Sweet Home" like the knowledge that there are an unknown number of explosive devices big enough to take out a tank, and they're still there. Personally, I'd have demanded the city pay for me to get a motel room. In Charlotte.

One question that hasn't been answered in any of the news reports is why anyone would sell live munitions to a recycling plant in the first place. The fact that the authorities later found more live and spent munitions at the mobile home (why does that detail seem so unsurprising to me?) of the people who sold them would lead one to conclude that they didn't realize the munitions were still live. Apparently, despite obvious experience in blowing the things up, they couldn't tell the difference between spent munitions and live ones. So they apparently tossed these live munitions in the back of their pickup truck (none of the news reports actually said what kind of vehicle they drove, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that "pickup truck" is a more likely answer than "Toyota Prius") and drove over an hour from their home to the recycling plant. The munitions experts, incidentally, exploded the munitions at the plant because they concluded that it was too dangerous to move these explosives that had been transported for over an hour.

Once the sellers got the munitions there, the people at the recycling plant couldn't tell the difference between live and spent munitions, either, so they bought them. (The recycling policy had a policy of buying munitions as long as they weren't live. Because it's clearly so easy to tell the difference.) I'm not sure whether the thought even crossed the buyers' minds that the explosives could in fact be live. They might have never figured it out, either, had it not been for the tiny little detail that one of them blew up.

In the end, there were 34 explosives to be taken care of, and the experts spent four days dealing with the issue (let me connect the dots for those who haven't already done it themselves: the amount of explosives involved didn't even double; the amount of time needed increased fourfold). The mayor was quoted as saying the situation "disrupted the lives of 25 to 30 people", and later that week roughly 100 of those 25 to 30 people talked to the mayor at a public meeting. The owner of the recycling company has announced that he's changing company policy to not accepting any ammunition at all since his employees obviously can't tell the difference. As for the city council, they haven't said they're actually going to do anything, but they have voted to study the matter.

I wish I was making up any of the stuff I've said here. But no, this plot point from a dark comedy is all real.

I did not expect this event to have any effect on me. I don't live or work near the plant, and I don't use Garner Road to drive between the two. As it turns out, however, it has affected my morning routine. Since then I've stopped bothering to check the traffic reports.

Somehow, hearing about a fender bender on the Beltline just doesn't sound half as interesting anymore.

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