5 Mundane Things That Caused Earth-Shattering Destruction
Hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, Johnny Cash -- all well-known sources of disaster. The damage they cause is tragic, but at least they come from an understandable place. You can see the storm clouds brewing, or that the whiskey bottle is 3/4 empty. You have advance notice that something bad is coming your way. But much like your significant other, sometimes there is just no predicting what will set off a monumental disaster.*
*We may have just accidentally called your significant other a monumental disaster, and for that we apologize.
Screw Up Your Golf Swing, Start a Raging Wildfire
On the great list of destructive sports, golf seems like it would rank pretty low. Hockey games will get you punched in the mouth. Soccer matches might cause riots. Baseball fields ... explode, maybe? But what's the worst thing to come out of a golf game? Plaid slacks and a bad business deal?
Hint: It wasn't Gary's "hot new IP" that would melt his golf cart.
One anonymous golfer was playing a round at the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, California. He had a particularly rough slice, and the ball landed near some rocks. Now, Anonymous Golfer (we'll call him Aggie, for short) was an upstanding gentleman: He wasn't taking a mulligan. He was going to play it as it lays.
Aggie took his swing, his club scraped against one of the rocks, and together they produced a tiny spark. That should have been the end of it. But alas, Aggie was using a titanium club. Titanium clubs are fantastic for playing both golf and Thor: They're made of a strong, lightweight metal ... with a tendency to cause 3,000-degree sparks that stay active for a full second.
The designer was eager to fulfill demands to "make golf less boring."
The super-spark landed in the grass, which burst into flames. "It's OK," Aggie surely thought, "it's just some grass."
Then it spread to the bushes.
"Only a few bushes, surely somebody will get a fire extinguisher out here and everything will be fine," Aggie rationalized.
Cut to a few minutes later and ...
By noon, the fire had spread to over 12 acres. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but it took over 200 firefighters just to control the damage from one errant swing. Look, we're no golf experts over here, but we feel fairly confident in saying this: Aggie, whoever you are, you have played the worst hole of golf in all of human history, spanning back to the birth of mankind and forward to its demise.
You mark that shit at least a double bogey.
Misplace Some Paperwork, Cause an Oil Rig Explosion
It was 1988, and the Piper Alpha platform off the coast of Scotland was chugging out over 100,000 barrels of oil a day. The platform was getting a little old and needed some work, but like a pornographic Energizer Bunny, it just kept right on pumping and pumping.
Lubrication was not an issue.
Maintenance was being performed on Condensate Pump A. The pump needed repairs, and the safety valve had been taken off (the safety valve being the thing that ensures giant explosions do not occur; that's some subtle foreshadowing right there). The workers needed to turn in for the night, so an engineer filled out a form explaining that the valve was off, and under no circumstances should gas be pumped until it was fixed.
But the night custodian was busy (which, because we've known a few night custodians in our day, we presume was a euphemism for "furiously masturbating"). So the engineer simply left the form on a desk and headed home. The next shift arrived, rolled their eyes at the strangely flustered night custodian who tried to explain that he was "just doing a bunch of jumping jacks when his pants fell down," and then got to work pumping gas. With no safety valve.
Attempts to pretend nothing had gone wrong proved unsuccessful.
It's the setup for a few dozen episodes of The Office: Somebody hilariously misfiled some paperwork, and now corporate is coming down to audit! Only in this case, one misplaced form caused billions of dollars of damage and killed 167 workers on board.
So the moral here is: You get your god damn TPS reports in on time, buddy.
Perfume Bottles Sparkle in the Sunlight, Set House on Fire
Last August, a mother and six children were enjoying the eight seconds of sunshine that appear in the British Isles every year when light beaming in a main floor window refracted through a few perfume bottles sitting on the windowsill. The light hit the glass bottles in such a way that the rays focused into a heat beam strong enough to ignite a fire that set the entire first floor ablaze.
We should note that the house contained a shrine to Bolag, the demon god.
Feel free to bookmark this article for the next time your wife, mother, or strangely familiar co-worker asks for perfume on their birthday. You will be entirely justified in slapping that bottle out of their hands and screaming, "My God! Are you trying to kill us all?"
It's not just perfume, however -- sinister sunlight will use any means possible to murder us in our homes. Dog bowls, crystal balls, and even our benignly nerdy friend the telescope have all started house fires.
So never combine a dog bowl, a crystal ball, and a telescope (unless, again, your demon shrine needs them).
Here's some security footage of a liquor store display seemingly spontaneously bursting into flames after vodka bottles focused sunlight on the cardboard stand. The location of that liquor store? Burnsville, Minnesota.
Nothing is an accident. The sun is in on it. This article posts at 5 a.m. -- warn your family before dayli-
A Squirrel Finds a Shiny Thing, All of Nasdaq Crashes
1987 was not a good year for the stock market. In October, the market nosedived so hard that it brought on a mini recession. By December, brokers were scrambling just to keep their heads above water. And then, at 10:43 a.m. on December 9, the power to the automatic quotation system suddenly went out, marking the abrupt end of all trading.
Though the screaming at each other remained.
For almost 90 minutes, Nasdaq was without the system. Investors panicked. The outage kept 20 million shares from being traded that day. They ended up losing $7 million worth of trading before power was restored. Fingers were pointed, blame was laid -- was it the Russians, some sort of electronic cyberhacker, or Gary, the inept intern, tripping over a power cable?
Nope: It was all the fault of one happy, curious little squirrel who had found a piece of aluminum foil that was just too damn shiny to pass up. Our little squirrel friend carried it up a utility pole and ran across a power line that, among other things, made possible all of the trading for Nasdaq. The aluminum touched the line, and our squirrel friend was no more.
If only he'd found and choked on plastic, like a normal squirrel.
Or perhaps we are wildly misgauging his fuzzy little intentions. After all, if he was some sort of squirrel super-terrorist, he had just unquestionably struck the largest rodent-based blow against humanity this side of the bubonic plague.
Oh, we know it was the fleas that actually spread the plague. But who do you think gave those fleas their marching orders, hmm?
Mylar Balloons Cause Hundreds of Power Outages a Year
Hey, you know Mylar balloons -- those helium-filled foil hearts you buy every year for Valentine's Day because you're lazy and uncreative and blissfully unaware of your own impending divorce? They probably rank toward the bottom of your "threat to public infrastructure" scale, somewhere between ice cream sundaes and the pop stylings of Wham!
They're balloons -- what are they gonna do, lightly startle you by popping?
Other than steal our precious helium and take it to the cloud people.
In the state of California in 2013 alone, there were over 300 reported power outages caused by Mylar balloons. That harmless teddy bear balloon who purports to "wuv u so much" does not, in fact, "wuv" you at all. He's responsible for power outages to 165,000 homes and businesses. He has denied vital energy to schools, traffic lights, and even hospitals. How much life does it take to slake your thirst, Mr. Fluffybottom?
The problem is so bad that, 18 years ago, legislators enacted the "California balloon law," which regulates the sale of Mylar balloons. Unfortunately, it does not authorize use of military funds to deploy against the Fluffybottom regime. It merely requires that merchants include warning labels and weights with every balloon sold. Then came salvation: In 2008, Bill 1499 was brought to the California State Senate, which proposed to outright ban Mylar balloons throughout the state. The people rejoiced, both lives and livelihoods would be saved!
"We can stick to inflating condoms from now on, which is never not funny!"
Does anybody else smell a Grisham thriller?
Evan V. Symon is a workshop moderator, personal experience team member, and the interview finder guy at Cracked. If you have an awesome personal experience you wish to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Reading: Tiny things cause huge disasters more often than you think. Like how a tiny fleck of space pretty much broke Hubble and cost NASA billions of dollars. Or that time in 1980 when a cheap computer chip almost caused a nuclear war.
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