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2000 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next
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Man With Gas Can  
2000 Personal Account

(March, 2000) Here's an episode that I had the pleasure, or displeasure, of witnessing first-hand. A true Darwin Award Contender in action. Since this particular occurrence didn't make the local papers, but it's a pity, because I still laugh my ass off when I think about it.

A few years ago, I worked in a small engine repair shop in my hometown in the heart of Appalachia, where intelligent people are outnumbered by the dangerously ignorant. One of these simpletons brought his rusty lawnmower in to be repaired.

He was a suspicious person who, despite his incredible stupidity, believed that he was smarter than everyone else. He also believed that we were out to rip him off, and wanted to start up his lawnmower in our parking lot to make sure that the job had been done correctly.

I watched from the safety of the garage, thirty feet away, as he pulled out a gas can from the bed of his pickup and attempted to refill the gas tank. It was bad enough that he had a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth as he fumbled with the gas, but things rapidly went from bad to worse.

Since he didn't have a funnel or a spout, and the gas tank's opening was very small, he decided it was time to improvise. He took a Styrofoam cup from his truck and filled it with gas. I can only assume he thought it would be easier to fill the tank with this smaller container. But if you have ever seen gasoline and Styrofoam combine, you know that this wasn't a good plan of action. The cup quickly disintegrated and emptied its contents on the man's pant legs.

He jumped back, obviously not anticipating the melting of the cup, and when he jumped, he dropped the gas can, which landed on its side and began to gurgle out even more gasoline which was rolling down the gentle slope of the parking lot. The cigarette fell from his mouth, almost in slow motion, and a rush of adrenaline shot through me as I watched the gasoline ignite in a loud "poof."

The fire climbed the man's legs and covered the parking lot and lawn mower. The flames raced towards the gas can and engulfed it. Luckily my boss had been watching as well, and he was out the door with a fire extinguisher and dousing the flames on the can lickety-split. I grabbed an extinguisher and headed for the man and the mower.

The paramedics arrived and took the idiot to the hospital where he was treated for second degree burns to his legs and hands.

Before I moved away, years later, I'd see the man about town and just have to laugh. I later learned that he was killed working on the transmission of his truck while it was parked on a steep incline. The cinder blocks he was using to stop the wheels gave way, and the truck rolled over the top of him.

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Submitted by: Jimmy Jams

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Matt says, I find this scenario hard to believe. Besides the excess of zany blunders executed by the bumbling hick with the gas can in such a short time, there is one detail that sticks out. Contrary to popular belief, a cigarette will not ignite a puddle of gasoline. The burning tip is not hot enough; the gasoline will simply extinguish it. Don't ask me why, but a flame or a spark is necessary to ignite gasoline. A cigarette simply won't do it."

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