26
Jun
08

A Disaster Waiting

Everyone has something that sets his hair on end. Fingernails on a chalkboard. A high-pitched dog yapping. Bugs and spiders. An old high school friend of mine could not even bear to look at a picture of a snake in a science book. I know someone for whom the thought of touching raw wood is literally nauseating. Mixing that brownie batter with a wooden spoon? As good as a toothbrush down the throat. A doctor with a tongue depressor? Call an ambulance.

For me, it’s glass — from a paper-thin martini glass to a gigantic window pane. This morning, walking the dog we’re sitting this week, I was already annoyed that she was stopping for a thorough examination of every five feet of sniffable surface. But when she picked a tree to piss on that placed me right next to a parked glass-delivery truck, my ankles began to sweat.

The truck backed up, and I tugged the lead slightly to encourage Honey to move on. I eyed the layered panes, completely stationary and secure yet still threatening at any moment to spontaneously shatter and explode, embedding irretrievable shards into my face and neck and arms. I imagined one of the larger ones buckling under its own weight to send a shimmering guillotine sliding down on my neck.

How does that truck make it all the way from the shop without shattering its cargo all across the highway? Why are the sheets of glass all arranged on the outermost edges of the truck bed — where they can do ordinary citizens the most harm? How do those workers each still have all 10 of their fingers? How can you allow small children and old people to pass within close proximity of this truck?

I have also always intensely disliked floor-to-ceiling mirrors. For one thing, in a home it’s usually just tacky and done for all the wrong reasons. (Want to make your room look bigger? Knock out a wall. Move into a different apartment.) Mostly, though, it’s just the sheer size of that sheet of glass. Moving a large unframed mirror from a friend’s apartment to another friend’s pickup truck, there was a moment when I thought it might slip through the gap between the elevator and the floor. It could easily happen. Loosen your grip for less than a blink, and someone’s certain death is suddenly hurtling through 32 floors of elevator shaft.

Glass table tops? Gag me. Ever see Heathers? Or that other movie (I think it’s a David Lynch) where the guy falls into the corner of a glass coffee table and it hacks halfway into his head — starting with the eye — like a sharp hatchet through a boiled egg?

When I first moved to my neighborhood, I met my ultimate horror in a set of glass shelves in a storefront window. Rising maybe five or six levels, each horizontal pane is suspended by a set of four tall, narrow pint glasses. A little too much weight on any one shelf, and you’ve got yourself a death scene. What merchandise could possibly be worth such a risk?

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