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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Extreme Thrifting

I'm enough of a thrift shop enthusiast to know that exploring the second-hand stores is always an adventure. But today was Extreme Thrifting at its most intense -- including bloodshed! Not what I'd bargained for when I strolled into the Salvation Army store.

(Or, as my mom-in-law C calls it, the Sally Shop. Let me tell you, I had no such kind nicknames for the place when I left, sporting four bandages and a large quantity of antibiotic ointment.)

It started out innocently enough. I've been on the hunt for some bookshelves and storage solutions for our living/dining area -- now that the computer has found a most satisfactory home in the craigslist computer armoire, the other pieces of furniture next to it look somewhat out of place. I check this particular location in Campbell pretty frequently, since it's the one in the area that seems to focus most on second-hand furniture. (Case in point: we donated our used desk a few weeks back -- the one that the computer armoire replaced -- and we dropped it off at the location closest to our apartment. A few days later, when I was browsing at the Campbell location, I saw our desk. Kind of surreal, and it apparently found a good home since it wasn't there when I was at the store today! May it work well for the new owners.) I had to be in the area anyway, since I had a dentist's appointment nearby, so I stopped in quickly on my way home.

Sure enough, they had several new items, one of which was somewhat promising, but I ended up deciding it wasn't quite right. As I was leaving, a pair of glass door bookcases caught my eye, and even though we'd decided that bookcases with doors just won't work for our current setup, I went over to check them out. I opened the door (a natural impulse when checking out second hand furniture) and I'm still not quite sure what happened but all of a sudden there was a report like a gunshot and the door shattered. Tempered glass, which went EVERYWHERE. Two women shoppers who were nearby in the store rushed over to see if I was OK. I hardly knew. My shoes were covered with broken glass bits, and I looked at my shaking hands -- the one that had been holding the door handle had been cut in three places and the other hand had been cut as well from flying glass. Thank God it didn't cut my eyes or anywhere else (if I'd had on sandals instead of sturdy sneakers, I would have been in bad shape).

Both the women shoppers helped me brush the glass bits from my clothes, and we shared an incredulous thirty seconds (or so, it seemed like much longer) while we waited for one of the employees to come see what happened.

"I just opened the door," I kept repeating. "I only opened it, and BAM!!! I just opened the door!" The women agreed that I hadn't done anything that should have caused such an accident. Finally, I yelled out, "HELLO??!! A little HELP HERE PLEASE???" A distant voice replied, "Someone's coming!"

And the manager who came was very apologetic, ushering me into the break room and pulling out their first aid kit. When I washed off the cuts, it turned out I had several scratches in addition to the cuts, but none were all that bad, and all were on the back of my hands and forearms, so easily bandaged. After I'd gotten all patched up, I said that I was OK and declined the need to file an official report.

I reassured the kind women who had helped me that I was fine and went and sat in the car for a few moments to calm down enough to drive home. My hands shook for a bit longer, and I kept getting shudderific visions of how awful it could have been if the glass had gone near my face. Mostly I felt stunned and grateful that it wasn't worse.

(Update, a few days later, it now looks like I've merely been on the losing end of a battle with an energetic kitten, save for the two largest cuts. Even they are healing up nicely and I'm sure everything will be just fine. Whew.)

Me being me, of course I've continued to wonder exactly why the glass broke when all I'd done was to (gently, slowly) open the door. One good thing: they didn't doubt me a bit that I wasn't at fault for the breakage. On our way out of the store, the manager and I walked by the employee sweeping up the glass and noted that the doors on the bookshelf (by design, apparently) didn't have any wood framing on the bottom. The manager said he guessed that when I opened the door the glass must have slipped down and hit the concrete floor and shattered, though it all happened so quickly I can't say for sure. I did a little research on "spontaneous breakage of tempered glass" and apparently this isn't as unusual as one might guess. Common enough for a Wikipedia entry, at any rate -- I had no idea! They say:

Spontaneous glass breakage is a phenomenon by which toughened glass (or tempered) may spontaneously break without any apparent reason. The most common causes are:

  • Minor damage during installation such as nicked or chipped edges which later develop into larger breaks
  • Binding of the glass in the frame causing stresses to develop as the glass expands and contracts due to thermal changes or deflects due to wind
  • Internal defects within the glass such as nickel sulfide inclusion.
  • Thermal stresses in the glass
  • Inadequate glass thickness to resist wind load
Given that this was a secondhand piece, I'm now betting there was some minor damage (either at the time of installation or during use) or an inclusion or problem with the framing. Reading this, I now doubt that the glass slipped and hit the floor. It happened too quickly and I didn't notice any sort of movement. (Though admittedly, it can be hard to be sure.) Clearly, whatever happened, I had the ill-luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the break happened. Now that I know how fragile tempered glass can be, this is certainly something to keep in mind during my future thrift store adventures -- I've definitely had enough of Extreme Thrifting for one lifetime!!!


cath c said...

wow! i'm glad you're ok and that the kids weren't standing right with you when that happened!

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

Seriously!!! It could have been SO MUCH WORSE. I'm all healed up now and will always be grateful I was solo when it happened.