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Burning Down My House

Essay By: Donna Cavanagh

Fire is not my friend although at times it seems to be a steady companion.

Submitted:Apr 4, 2010    Reads: 702    Comments: 7    Likes: 5   

The other day, I started to make spaghetti sauce. I was browning some garlic in olive oil when the phone rang. It was a person I was trying to interview for an article for the past week. Immediately, I headed upstairs to my office to conduct the interview which took about 10 minutes.It wasn't until one of the smoke alarms went off that I realized I had forgotten about the olive oil and garlic on the stove.

I ran down the steps, and immediately noticed the heavy smoke filling the living room.In the kitchen, flames were flying outof the pot that was sitting on the burner. I quickly turned off the stove, covered the pot and threw it in the sink to cool off. Then, I grabbed a dishtowel and ran to the smoke detector to begin the Smoke Detector dance.

What, you don't know the dance? Oh, well let me explain it to you.The Smoke Detector Dance is when the idiot who forgot she had boiling oil on the stove must now find a way to trick the smoke detector into thinking that the toxic smoke has dissipated and is no longer a danger to the house or the people who live in it.Usually, the dance involves jumping up and down like a maniac while waving a dishtowel or pot holder in front of the sensor on the alarm.

Luckily for me, the dance was a success and the alarm closest to the kitchen did go silent after a few seconds. Not so lucky for me, the smoke had made its way to other parts of the house and all the other alarms in the house started blaring at once. I was running up and down the stairs waving anything I could find in front of the detectors trying to shut them up.Since I stopped flailing at the first alarm, the smoke returned to its sensor too and well, it felt the need to screech again. I did manage to get the windows open, but the fresh air was not enough to deactivate the smoke alarm. Finally, in an act of desperation, I took all the batteries out of the smoke alarms.Silence truly is golden.

Hey, it's not my fault that the smoke detectors can't tell a real fire from a not-so-real fire. It is my sincerest opinion that smoke detectors should have a "Sorry, I screwed up, but the house is not burning down" switch which shuts off the freaking alarm sound on voice command.

After I got the alarms disabled, I went to assess the damage in the kitchen. There was nothing I couldn't clean up in an hour. Sure, some of my white cabinets wore a coating of black, greasy soot, the bottom of my microwave grill was charred and the ceiling now had a few black spots, but I could hide most of the damage with a little scrubbing. I had an hour until my husband came home.

Why was this an issue? Well, let's just say my smoke detectors earn their new batteries each year, and my husband constantly reminds me of these fiery occurrences. Allow me to share some of his favorite fire experiences. And before you judge me, just know this. Not one time - well, only one time - has the fire department had to come to my house.I am, for the most part, a one-woman flame putter outer.

The first incident - or rather incidents - occurred when my daughter was a baby.I was nursing, and everything was going along fine until she decided at six months of age that she was not going to nurse anymore.Yep, just like that, she was done - no weaning, no anything, and this left me and my boobs in sort of a pickle.Since she was not nursing, I had to constantly pump. I hate to be graphic, but to not pump would risk a breast explosion of epic proportions.

So, I would pump and pump and pour the contents from the pump bottle into other containers and then sterilize the pump bottle in boiling water for the next go round. Apparently, I had some kind of mental block with the whole thing because I would always forget about the container that was sterilizing in a pot of boiling water on the stove. It was only the eye-tearing smoke of burning plastic that sent a reminder to my brain that trouble was afoot in the kitchen.

One would think that one run in with burning plastic would be enough incentive to remember the boiling breast bump container. Well, one would be wrong. I went through seven, count them, seven breast pumps in less than two months.

The second incident that occurred was done out of love. However, that is not what I told the fire department. Yes, this is the one incident when help was sought.

Okay, let me just do the rip-the-band-aid-off quickly method and say this really fast, and if you could, maybe you can read this one really fast as it is a little embarrassing. Here it goes. I am not a good lights-on person when doing the deed. Call is shyness or catholic guilt - whatever, I don't do it in bright light. However, I used to think it would be romantic to have scented candles around to add to the ambience of the romantic moment. Come on, all the soap operas and TV shows have these sex scenes where hundreds of candles light up the bedroom giving it that warm, inviting glow, and these scenes never end in a huge conflagration that requires a fire department rescue and one of the parties wearing the CO2 foam from a fire extinguisher.

For the record, I lit one stupid Yankee candle. That's it - one stupid candle. Unfortunately for me, in one of my more acrobatic moments, my foot went off in a totally misguided direction and sent the candle flying across the room and onto the rug. The whole incident gave new meaning to the Doors' song "Come on, Baby, Light my fire."

Well, after the fire department left (I, of course, lied to them as to how the fire got started, and they, of course did not believe me, and so I had to move), I vowed that no more candles were ever allowed anywhere near the bedroom. Now, that I live in another township and the candle industry has come up with wickless candles that run on LED technology or something like that, I can recant this edict in good conscience and once again have romantic bedroom lighting.As long as it does not require a fire extinguisher next to the bed, my husband is happy.


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