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July 23, 2004
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Man Ignites Portable Toilet Explosion

In a confirmation of one of the deepest, darkest fantasies of adolescence, some guy in Virginia almost incinerated himself by lighting up in a Spot-A-Pot.  In a Lucky Strike, according to the EMT, he escaped without serious injury and was well enough to drive himself to the nearest hospital for treatment.  AP notes, however, that "He was later  transferred to Ruby Memorial Hospital."  I'll bet the nurse at the first place he went didn't even bother to check for his insurance card.  When a guy covered in crap and smelling like the sewer takes a seat in the waiting room, it's time to get an emergency transfer stat (as they say).  No word on how fast he was shown the door at Ruby Memorial.
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Airplanes - Especially WWI vintage Red Baron heirlooms.  These things light up even without the benefit of highly flammable gases, so just imagine the fireworks if you mix it up a little by breaking wind once or twice then lighting up the obligatory Camel.  Not advisable, but cigarettes were still new-fangled back then and folks just couldn't resist the temptation, even without the benefit of over-the-counter drugs to minimize the risk of a dangerous emission.  
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, once you're about 50 miles or so from DC, they have a special way of referring to events like this:  The methane gas didn't "take  too kindly" to the lit cigarette, according to a spokeswoman for Monongalia  Emergency Medical Services.  It takes a lot more than an exploding ball of human waste to get the folks in Monongalia worked up.

This truly is a topic shrouded in mystery.  When I was a Boy Scout, we used to sit around the campfire after dinner and try to light farts. One guy, in the pre-teen equivalent of the quest for the holy grail, even caught his pants on fire.  Still, after repeated attempts, we couldn't achieve even the most pitiful flicker.  All we ended up doing was stinking up the campsite and pissing off the Scoutmaster.  This was before we discovered that girls really were fun.  Then we stopped farting around them.  Until we were married.

Now, after all these years, I finally understand the flaw in our method.  An open-air environment does not permit the accumulation of gases in sufficient concentration to support combustion.  Sure enough, confine these noxious fumes in the close quarters of a Port-a-Pot and you don't even have to get precious body parts close to the flame to start an inferno.  Let this brew perk long enough and you can probably achieve the miracle of spontaneous combustion.

You might think that our friend in the crapper picked an especially hazardous place to start experimenting, but I can think of some that I would avoid with even more vigor:
Spacecraft - While the space shuttle fleet certainly applies here, I would recommend that fart-lighting be excluded from zero-gravity experimental programs on any space mission.  There's so much combustion going on here as part of the normal course of events that astronauts are well advised to take a healthy dose of Bean-o before launch just as a precautionary measure.  What would be an embarrassing faux-pas in any social situation could be a matter of life or death in orbit.  Wouldn't it suck to be the astronaut whose flatulance caused the shuttle to explode?  "Houston, we have a problem."
Farms - Ever drive by a farm in central Pennsylvania and wonder what that rich, thick odor is?  Well, seems as if Elsie the Cow is producing more than just milk.  Not only are her omissions contributing to the gathering global warming fiasco, she also runs the risk of sparking a conflagration that would engulf the entire farm.  Imagine the chain reaction.  Some poor farmer out tooling around on his tractor, not thinking he's doing anything particularly risky, lights up a Marlboro as 
usual and sits back in amazement as a wave of flames rolls in all directions punctuated by intense explosions where hapless bovines once stood passively chewing their cuds.  This could be particularly hazarous in highly rural areas where farms tend to run right up against one another.  Just as the wave of fire would appear to be running its course it would pick up new fuel from the neighboring farm.  This could go from county to county until suburban sprawl serves to break the surf.  Perhaps a somewhat drastic soluton to the problem of low farm prices.