Saturday, September 24, 2016

Air mattress

From the "got to laugh to keep from crying" files... something to add to the list of universal truths along with "water flows downhill" and "you can't push rope"... add a line for "mattresses are not aerodynamic".

Generally, transporting anything on top of a car is something to be done carefully, with consideration for general principles of physics including, but not limited to: gravity, inertia, and friction.  Ignoring any of the above WILL result in possible outcomes including embarassment, property damage, personal injury and DEATH.  Car-top-carrying is an occupational hazard of DIY considering that the average homeowner has not made the wise investment in a box truck or sizable trailer to carry large, aerodynamically-challenged loads.  Large furniture, sheets of building material, big-screen TVs ... all are top candidates for generating sufficient lift to overcome the forces of gravity if strapped to the outside of a moving vehicle.  A pickup truck is no panacea; I've hauled 16-foot dimensional lumber on the roof of a Subaru Impreza, and in 8-foot pickup beds - hint:  it's a heck of a lot easier (and safer) with the Subaru, though I'd argue a good pull-behind trailer is the best bet of all.

So let it be understood that, done properly, the top of your car can provide all the utility necessary to transport significant quantities of oversized building materials between the local big-box store and the construction staging area in your backyard.  "Done properly" implies that proper consideration has been given to physics as noted above, and appropriate safety measures have been employed including bundling, load-balancing, tie-downs and that all of the above has been done with considerations for load limits of roof hardware, and without impeding visibility for the driver.

Just for the record, and in case this wasn't clear, "done properly" never, and I mean NEVER, involves getting your buddy to sit on the roof to hold something down.

Enter 20 year-old Sidney Zelaya Gonzalez, of Culpeper, Virginia, and the driver of the mattress-topped van upon which Ms. Gonzalez did ride; and who, together, provide us with a cautionary tale to the consequences of ignoring a little phenomenon known as air resistance.

The conversation probably went something like this:

"I need to get this mattress to meemaws but it won't fit in the back."

"Just put it on top of the van."

"I tried, but it flew off as soon as I started moving."

"No problem, let me get on and I'll weigh it down."

"OK."

The rest is history, and in the bylines of a news story that would be comical if the consequences were not so tragic.

WASHINGTON — A 20-year-old woman who was riding on a mattress on top of a van in Haymarket, Virginia, died early Friday morning after she and the mattress fell from the roof of the moving vehicle, Prince William County Police said.
Police believe Sidney Zelaya Gonzalez, of Culpeper, Virginia, and the driver of the van — a 41-year-old woman who has not been identified — were attempting to transport the mattress a short distance when Gonzalez fell and hit the pavement, police said.
“This was not a joy ride,” Nathan Probus, a public information officer with Prince William County told WTOP.
Were these ladies trying to pull some ridiculous stunt to post on YouTube in the hopes of landing a guest spot in Jackass 4, one could be forgiven for tactless comments about Darwin awards and the such, though it's clear that some people in online comments sections have no compunctions about doing this anyway.  The tragedy is in the fact that they were simply trying to get a job done, and took the initiative to try to get it done themselves, but for whatever reason lacked the initiative, knowledge, or common sense to take even rudimentary safety precautions.

The lesson here?  DIY can get you killed if you don't do it right.  Some people just need to hire it out.

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