Why Teenagers And Gasoline Don’t Mix


Boys tend to go through a phase during which they are fascinated by fire. This phase begins around the age of two, and ends with cremation, whether that cremation was intentional or not. When boys are young, we mainly keep them flame-proof with constant supervision and the kind of over-melodramatic warning parents can get away with when their kids are (let’s be honest here) fucking idiots. By the time boys close in on their twentieth birthday, they’ve got something vaguely resembling a clue (just barely) and spend most of their time chasing girls anyway. But in between, there is a span of three to five years where they are very likely to engage in what appears to be, by almost any standard, brain damaged behavior. “Hey! Let’s soak these grass clipping in gasoline, stuff them in this propane tank nozzle and light the whole thing on fire!” The following story fits into that category.

I was around fourteen years old when I hit my pyro prime. Two good friends and I spent an awful lot of time doing things like pouring gasoline into a gallon jug and detonating it with dynamite wick in the middle of a corn field. We did this kind of shit in broad daylight, and not once did a parent or otherwise responsible person ever object or tell us to knock it off. “Huh, the neighbor kids just filled a garbage can with kerosene and are trying to kick a flaming soccer ball into it. … I wonder what’s on TV?” I can only imagine there was a lot of secret daytime drinking going on that I didn’t know about because nothing else can explain the total apathy that we took advantage of.

One day, in search of kicks, I walked over to a friend’s house near the Junior High and met up with three friends. After briefly running down our options, we decided that if something didn’t explode or burst into flames soon, the day was going to be a total waste. “Hey!” a friend named Chris said. “We can play the Gas Game again!” Everyone immediately agreed to play the ominous sounding “Gas Game”, but I didn’t know what it was, not having been around the day that it was invented. So I asked how this game was played.

Chris: It’s awesome. We each go into a corner of the garage, and we’ve got a puddle of unlit gas in front of us. In the middle of the room is a puddle of gas, on fire. We each have a squirt gun filled with gas. The object is to squirt gas at the fire in the middle and try to set everyone else’s puddle on fire. The last person out of the garage wins!

Me: That is, without a doubt, the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

Chris: Oh, c’mon, it’s a total blast!

Me: That’s what I’m afraid of. Look, are you fucking kidding me? You’ll be lucky if you burn yourself to death, because then you won’t have to explain to your parents why your house burned to the fucking ground. What is fucking wrong with you?

To put things in perspective, I once filled a paint can with propane and set it off by touching a match to it, damn near blowing my arm off in the process. When I think an idea is stupid, that is saying something.

To put things in perspective, I once filled a paint can with propane and set it off by touching a match to it, damn near blowing my arm off in the process. When I think an idea is stupid, that is saying something.

So, needless to say, Chris decided to do what any rational human being would do in that situation, assuming he had been huffing paint thinner: He started pouring puddles of gas in his own garage and doling out gas-filled squirt guns. I watched the proceedings from the sidewalk, occasionally saying helpful things such as, “You guys are going to die.”

As expected, the Gas Game started off with a lot of laughter. Very quickly, however, things began to spiral out of control. Flames shot up at least five feet in the air, and pretty soon the entire garage was a solid wall of flame. Two of my friends staggered out, beating at their flaming jeans, while Chris (ever the brain surgeon) stood in the back corner of his flaming garage yelling, “I win! I win!”

Within a few seconds, however, Chris began to realize that his foolproof plan for ending the game (i.e. “Stomp the fire out”) was going to be difficult to execute considering the fact that flames were licking at the ceiling. Luckily, the corner he was in had a door to the inside of the house. He disappeared into the house and came out with a large comforter and started beating at the flames. Amazingly, he managed to get the flames reduced in size to the point where everyone else could come in and kick at the remaining flames until the garage was no longer on fire.

See? What's the big deal? No problem.

See? What's the big deal? No problem.

“See?” said Chris triumphantly. “What’s the big deal?”

“What’s the big deal? You asshole, look at the fucking ceiling! It’s black as night! And the walls are scorched three feet high! Your dad is going to kill you!”

Chris was having none of this negativity. “Pffffft. He won’t notice it at all.”

“Won’t notice it? Your garage smells like a fucking gas refinery!”

It was then that another of our friends yelled “Shit!” and called our attention to a rather disturbing development. It seems that in the hurry to kick off the Gas Game, Chris had left the gas can inside the garage where it sat, enveloped in flames, until we noticed it that moment. The plastic nozzle of the gas can was on fire, burning like the wick of a candle. After some urgent discussion, we decided that the best course of action was to carefully carry the gas can into the street and douse the flame with a hose, which we then carried out.

Caution: Keep away from morons

Caution: Keep away from morons

We escaped unharmed, at least from fire. Chris’ dad did indeed noticed the fact that his garage looked like the inside of a barbecue grill, and Chris’ excuse (“We spilled some gas on the floor and figured the best way to clean it up was to set it on fire”) didn’t fly. He was grounded for quite a while.

Although I was smart enough to avoid the Gas Game, I didn’t exactly learn a whole lot from it other than the fact that it’s not smart to play with large amounts of gas in an enclosed area. I was involved in trying to blow up a couple of sewers (seriously, feloniously stupid), I watched a friend conduct an experiment to determine if you could boil gasoline, inches away from his house (turns out you can, much to my surprise), and I damn near burned down the state of Michigan, which would have resulted in damages reaching into the tens, if not hundreds of dollars.

Finally, I accumulated enough wisdom and enough maturity to realize that playing with fire just isn’t that smart. You can do it, and you can get away with it, but eventually you will get burned. Literally. And so now I am the responsible adult I am today, totally capable of handling fire safely and curbing my childish impulses. Unless someone asks me to light a grill with lighter fluid, because I am utterly incapable of doing that with less than three full containers of the stuff. That’s just awesome.

The coals will be ready in 3.42 seconds.

The coals will be ready in 3.42 seconds.

26 Responses to “Why Teenagers And Gasoline Don’t Mix”

  1. Jacky says:

    So basically you’re saying if I ever have children and they happen to be boys get the highest level of home insurance, life insurance and medical insurance possible so I could afford such catastrophes and if they end in death I could make some money. gotcha. Now I pray i only have girls…or puppies..i can deal with puppies.

    • K. says:

      Uh…I don’t think girls mean you get to skip the pyro stage…but I am thankful I didn’t do anything that bad and so far my boys have only left small black holes. My last two haven’t made it to full adult just quite yet though and I have a granddaughter that might be more ingenious than all of us…

      …yeah…thinking puppies are MUCH safer!

      • Greg says:

        Well, sure, girls can be pyros, but in my experience it’s quite rare. Of all the kids I knew, only one girl was anywhere close, and she just liked firecrackers.

        If there’s an enterprising reader out there, juvenile delinquency records regarding arson should be quite illuminating.

    • Greg says:

      Having boys as a way of making money? That’s not going to happen. Boys will damage things to the tune of 110% of your net worth. That’s Greg’s Theorem of Flammability.

  2. Pish Posh says:

    Oh god. I do think girls mean you get to skip the pyro stage, proportionately. Every pyro I’ve ever met has been a boy.

    What’s the opposite of a pyro? I can’t even light the barbeque without freaking out. And many’s a time I’ve singed these eyebrows off, but not on purpose or for playing these crazy games.

    • K. says:

      I will agree the odds are better for future pyros to be boys rather than girls…just don’t think you’re home free just because your new bundle of joy is a girl!

      I was the girl chasing all the boys (screaming like girls) with snakes, spiders and anything else I found out they were scared of…those were the good old days and it made me a cool mom with my boys!

      As far as the opposite of pyro…maybe fire hater or pyrophobic

      …But don’t worry – my boys are making sure I get my paybacks in triplicate!

      • Greg says:

        Ha, your kids are probably going to be like me and my brothers. My older brother got caught mixing gas and oil and setting it ablaze in a field next to an elementary school. Cops brought him home. Fun times.

        I did the stuff above plus a bunch more.

        My younger brother was pretty tight-lipped about his pyromania, bunt I can recall him coming home reeking of smoke and/or gas on numerous occasions.

        Lotsa luck with that!

        • K. says:

          Think I might need more than luck! Thanks for the story! It helps to remember all those “moments” make for good stories and laughs later (once we know all participants survived in one piece)…

    • Greg says:

      I agree with K. Pyrophobic probably describes it.

  3. Squatch says:

    “And so now I am the responsible adult I am today, totally capable of handling fire safely and curbing my childish impulses. Unless someone asks me to light a grill with lighter fluid, because I am utterly incapable of doing that with less than three full containers of the stuff. That’s just awesome.”

    Or a campfire, don’t forget those…

    “Hey, look! A dead tree!” *drag drag drag plop*

    “You’re gonna set that on fire? Uh, that’s pretty big, dude.”

    *flick flick flick* “Okay, when it starts on fire, blow on it to get it going…”

    “This is Arizona, Greg…”

    • Greg says:

      I’m pretty sure we used that to cook something, so technically that counts as a grill.

      But yeah, that was a bit out of bounds. Now I’ve almost burnt down TWO states!

  4. LA Juice says:

    Once I had to stop my teenaged cousin from setting the centerpieces on fire at my sister’s wedding reception. the next year for Christmas I gave him a porn for pyros CD. no one but me thought that was appropriate.

    • Greg says:

      Oh, impromptu indoor fires are fun, but everyone’s gotta be really drunk, and you have to sweep everyone up with your enthusiasm quickly, or the cops come.

      Or, uhhh, so I’ve heard.

  5. Heather says:

    Have there been any sane years in your life? Just (irrationally) curious…..

    • Greg says:

      Hmmm, other than learning to read at a very, very early age, I was pretty normal until I turned 10. Then everything went off the rails, sanity-wise.

  6. Reanna says:

    We had wood stoves and too much unsupervised time when I was a kid. My brother and I tested pretty much everything for its flamability factor – generally by throwing it on top of the stove with some wooden match heads. Our roof lit on fire once, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t my fault…

    • Greg says:

      Oooh, yeah, if I had access to a wood-burning stove growing up, we would’ve had no furniture.

      I remember my dad came home the proud owner of a banana yellow Chevy Impala station wagon (hey, it was the 70’s). Within a week, he was interrogating us as to why the leather-oleum seats had circles on them. Not sure why he didn’t figure it out immediately, but we had discovered the cigarette lighter and performed a few “experiments”.

      This is why I never let my kids leave their rooms.

      • Reanna says:

        Wood stoves are the shit for sure.

        In a non-fire-related vein, I saw this kid’s book awhile back called “Little Monkey’s Big Peeing Circus.” A boy monkey has a peeing circus and a girl monkey wants to get involved. They spend some time looking for her pee-pee and then get to the circus thing. My bro and I had bunk beds and my mother is soooo lucky we didn’t have access to this book.

  7. Vonny says:

    Don’t bother buying lottery tickets mate. I think you pretty much used up all your luck in your youth.

  8. Rusty says:

    I was also a personal fan of spray cans of degreaser as my choice of flame thrower. It burnt slower and that means at least a reach of 1.5 meters with a near empty can.

    Everything else didn’t come close, so you had to get close… or something like that

    • Greg says:

      We used to play with those until we had a couple of close calls. Then we learned that if you just toos one of them into a fire, they go off with tremendous force, often landing with a metallic clank up to 30 seconds later. Wow.

  9. Vesta Vayne says:

    Oh yes, boys are definitely the fire lovers.

    When I was a teenybopper, the adults had a block party, and while everyone’s parents were drinking margaritas, all the kids decided to toilet paper the entire neighborhood. Before we made it out of the cul-de-sac two of the boys lit their TP rolls on fire and threw them into rain sewer. No one thought much of it, and we went on our merry way to wreak havoc. When we came back, everyone had their hoses trained on the sewer, which had flames shooting out of it (we were in yet another period of drought in Texas, so all those dead leaves and whatnot went up like a roman candle).

    So stupid. Nothing like teenagers making trouble and drunk parents pretending to be firefighters.

    • Greg says:

      My first run-in with fire was when I was five. A neighbor and I started stuffing dried weeds into a knothole in a rotting tree trunk that had fallen over on its side. Then we’d set them on fire and stuff more weeds in there.

      We were so fascinated by the flames that we scooted up real close to watch and were totally oblivious to the fact that both ends of the trunk were billowing out smoke. We got caught by both of our fathers who happened to come out to investigate at the same time.

      That was the last time I got busted for anything even remotely close to that level of severity, so I remember it very well.

  10. Lady in Red says:

    Great post and such a fun introduction to your blog. I thought I had crazy guy friends growing up – but you and your crew seem to have been a step ahead of most boys 😉

    Thanks for all the laughs – it was hard to stop!

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