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Mortimer Snert and the Reluctant Air Compressor

It was a pneumatic day in the neighbourhood when Mortimer Snert went outside to dig his cars out from under 3 feet of ice and snow. It was a typical winter day where he lived, having rained incessantly the previous week, and then overnight had turned colder than 3 kinds of hell, while continuing to rain, with wind blowing 5 different directions, thus insuring a uniformly thick coating of impermeable ice on every possible surface of anything unfortunate enough to be left outside. Now Mort had discovered, over many untold years of living through winters of this nature, that if one were to be able to get the car’s engine started, and thus, run the heater, a lot of the problems would take care of themselves, the car being oh so well insulated, as all of his were, and the fact that the passenger compartment was minuscule enough to be heated by the microscopic heater core that was installed. So, the first order of business was to get the car opened, and then start the engine. Now opening the car was somewhat of a problem, since whatever brilliant auto designer in Detroit, or wherever these idiots come from, decided that the olde style door handles which had the handle that one could actually hold onto and yank really hard if necessary were just way too vintage looking, and designed the kind where you raise up on this little handle and the door magically pops open. Unless, of course, the car is covered in 3 feet of ice and the door is frozen shut, because some other idiot designed the door frame to extend about halfway into the roof. So, at the very least, Mort would require an ice scraper to get in, all of which were safely stowed away in the car’s glovebox. Now this was a bit of a predicament, since to open the car, he needed the scraper, but to get the scraper, he had to open the car. This kind of situation had the tendency to cause Mort’s brain to lock up, and he discovered himself, after about 15 minutes, standing in the middle of the driveway, in freezing cold weather, staring blankly at the car door. Snapping himself out of his reverie, he headed back inside the house to see what he could find to open the door. Looking through the toolbox, he discovered a rather large chisel, which had a wickedly sharp business end to it. He laid this aside, thinking about using it as a last resort, but knowing full well what kind of damage this device would wreak on the paint job. The next thing he came across was a large rubber mallet. He thought briefly about wailing at the ice with the mallet, in an attempt to break it loose, and decided against that, not only because of the paint, but also of the possibility of damaging the oh so pristine body of the car. Continuing the search, he finally discovered an olde manky ice scraper hidden in the bottom of a box of discarded car parts. This should have been a clue, but in his desperation, Mort snatched the scraper and headed out the door into Iceland, where he immediately slid across the porch and did a swan dive due to the thick layer of collected ice there, and landed face first in the front yard. Picking himself up, and brushing off most of the icicles that had embedded themselves into his exterior, he slid his way over to the frozen car, and started chipping away at the door with the scraper. About the third chip into the process, the handle of the scraper failed miserably, and Mort was left holding 2 separate pieces, a rubber coated handle, and a stump of a scraper from which he could get absolutely no leverage to continue to scrape away with, not that he didn’t try this for about 20 minutes or so, until his hands were blue and raw from the process. So taking the stump of a scraper back into the house, he sat down for a minute to consider the next plan of action. He remembered some of the methods that were used by one of his acquaintances, a not so bright fellow who had caused irreparable damage to his cars because he hated scraping ice, and recalled one method which actually worked, until the fellow got overzealous and applied it to the front windshield, resulting in an impressive spiderweb pattern of fractured glass. If one were to take warm water and carefully apply it to the frozen places, it was possible, after a while, to be able to melt the ice to the point where one could conceivably, with the assistance of a stub of an ice scraper, defeat the ice seal and get into the car. The mistake his friend made was to apply 140 degree water directly to the windscreen of his car, and in copious amounts, trying to eliminate the need for scraping entirely. The resultant interaction between the hot water and the frozen glass was catastrophic, but indeed did eliminate the necessity of scraping, at least for that particular windscreen. Now Mort was one to learn from other people’s mistakes, especially some of the more spectacular ones such as this, so he carefully considered what he was about to do, and also the consequences of doing so in an extreme fashion. So very carefully, Mort collected some not so hot water in a container, went outside, sliding carefully across the frozen porch and down the stairs, and cautiously applied the water to the frozen door. Now the combination of the water temperature, the ambient temperature and the wind velocity at this point in time caused the water to freeze instantly wherever he poured it, making the problem, in fact, much worse. Not one to be easily defeated, he went back into the house and collected some more water, this being a little hotter. Again, he poured the water on the frozen door, this time to be rewarded with less frozen water than the first time. Over the course of time, the process was repeated, and finally, the ice was melted to the point that Mort felt he could possibly haul the door open and gain entrance. Now the thing that he did not fully realize was the fact that in the course of flooding the door with water, he had inadvertently flooded the driveway with the same water, and this water, having a large mass of frozen concrete below it, had not behaved as nicely as the water on the door, and had, in fact melted and re frozen the surface to the extent that it was as smooth as glass. And Mort was standing on this surface as he grabbed the door handle and gave a mighty heave ho. The door sprung open, as he expected it to do, but in the process, caused him to over balance and lose his footing, propelling him under the side of the car. Extricating himself from under the car, he got in, removed the ice scraper from the glovebox, started the engine and heater, and proceeded to go outside and chisel ice from the car. Once outside, he noticed that the other car, which was next in line for ice removal, had gotten a flat tire. Actually, it was not quite entirely flat, but enough so that he did not want to attempt to drive it to the petrol station to obtain air. The solution to that was to wait until the ice melted off the original car, load up the air tank, and go retrieve air from the air store. Now we must realize here that Mort had foreseen this possibility in the past, and had indeed purchased several small air compressors, each of which had failed spectacularly in different fashions. After the last one, Mort had decided that they were not worth the hassle, and that the air tank was a reasonable alternative. So by the time he had located the secret hiding place where all portable air tanks go when they have been ignored for a while, the car was melted off and ready to go. Sliding across the porch and down the stairs, Mort dumped the air tank in the back of the car, and opened the door, narrowly avoiding another plunge on the ice rink that he had inadvertently created. By now, it had started to drizzle again, so Mort turned on the windscreen wipers. Now Mort was not one to purposely ignore maintenance on machinery, but he had inadvertently overlooked the condition of the wiper blades, since he had not had the need to use them for quite some time, and they had subsequently dried out and little pieces of rubber began to come off as they scraped over the window. This resulted in seriously diminished vision, and since the auto store did not sell wiper blades when it rained, Mort was forced to drive around looking through a small area in which the blades actually worked. So he really did not feel like driving any great distance to get air in the tank. So he went to the car wash, which had free air. Getting out and sliding across the parking lot, he retrieved the air hose, and pushed the little button under the sign that said push here for air. And nothing happened. Thinking that there may have been a mistake, he pushed it again. After repeating this process about 27 times, he decided that the air compressor at this particular location was not going to co-operate that day. So calmly getting back in his car, he went across the street to the petrol store, where they wanted a quarter for air. Now something about having to pay for air, which was freely available, but in this case, was slightly under pressure, offended Mort, but the necessity of putting air in the tire overruled that, so getting out of the car, he fished around in his pocket and produced a quarter. In fact, this was the only quarter that he owned at that point in time, so he carefully inserted it into the slot on the machine. And nothing happened. This was not exactly what he had expected, or hoped for, so he whacked it gently with his hand. The same hand that had undergone repeated freezing and thawing and being abused by the stump of an ice scraper originally. The same hand which was now refrozen, and which, when he whacked the box, hurt mightily. Now Mort was normally a very patient person, but the combination of being frozen, having had contact with the ground on several occasions, having a flat tire, and then driving around looking out a little hole in the ice on the windscreen had taken their toll on Mort. The final straw was when the machine stole his quarter and not given out any air. This was two infractions. One infraction might have been fine, but there was no excuse for two from the same machine. Suddenly Mort completely lost his patience, and did the first thing which came to mind, which was to rear back and kick the crap out of the air compressor. Which might have been successful had he not been standing on ice at the time. This resulted in a rather ineffective amount of force being applied to the machine, and the resultant reactive force caused Mort to go sliding across the parking lot doing an awkward and truly amusing looking arm flailing dance, as he tried to avoid contact with the ground again. By now, Mort was truly livid, and making his way back to the compressor pole, he positioned himself on the back side of it, where he was standing in frozen grass, and proceeded to wail away on the thing with his foot. After getting in half a dozen serious kicks, he noticed that the people at the pumps were starting to look over and point at him, and about this time he noticed that one of the moveable television cameras that studded the outside of the petrol store was panning his direction. Since the car was between him and the camera, he decided to give the compressor one last kick, and then beat a hasty retreat. This was not to be one of the most intelligent things he had done an quite a while, since this was going to be the parting shot, he applied extra force to this last one, and in the process ended up hitting the toe of his shoe on the bottom part of the compressor box. Mort knew immediately from the amount of pain that was emanating from his toe that he was going to have a problem. So hobbling over to the car, he beat a hasty retreat back to his house. Not only did he now have a car with a flat (so to speak) tire, but he also had a broken toe, an air tank with no air in it, and a proper case of humiliation. Now the initial impulse was to remove his shoe to see how much damage had been done, but he then realized that at this point, if he removed his shoe, he would not get it back on, and he still had several things to do, like shopping for groceries, putting petrol in the car (at a different petrol station, of course) and so on. So Mort suffered through the rest of the day, and finally removed the offending shoe in preparation of going to bed. Now Mort knew there would be some damage, and was prepared for a certain amount, but as he removed his sock, it was evident that there was a lot more damage than he had first expected. His toe was swollen to about twice as large as it should be, and the whole thing was a very impressive colour of purple. He could still move it, although doing so caused excruciating pain, so he knew it was not necessarily broken, so he ate a handful of advil and went to bed. The next morning when he got up, the swelling had gone down some, but the purple had extended to more of his foot, and his toenail was a nasty blackish purple green colour. And the tire on the second car was still flat. Not wanting to incur any more damage to himself, Mort dredged out the portable bicycle tire pump, and proceeded to fill the air tank with bicycle air. This took several hours to accomplish, since Mort was not necessarily terribly out of shape. Once the air was in the tank. Mort proceeded out the door, sliding once again across the porch, and applied the air pressure to the tire. So now the second car was serviceable, for whatever reason, and Mort was happy to have survived through the process. Making his way to the auto store, he then purchased a pair of windscreen wipers that were not shredded, and some spare ice scrapers, which he kept inside the house, just in case another unfortunate weather event happened to secure the doors on his cars from being entered. And so life went on, in a typical Mortimer Snert fashion, and everyone lived happily ever afterwards.