Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Burnin' Down The House

Clifton made a nice (and tasty!) shrimp pasta dish when he was visiting the other night. As the final ingredient, he added about half a cup of tequila to the sauce and lit it on fire for a big flaming ending. He just calmly shook the pan and waited for the big flame to burn out and leave the flavor in the sauce.

But when I saw that flame, I had major flashbacks and fought the urge to grab Dot and run screaming out into the street. Flashbacks of burning down the kitchen in the pink house where I lived with Robert and Eugene.

That house was really cute. I liked it so much and with all of our stuff combined, it looked great. I’ve never been a fan of living with roommates, but as far as that goes, living with Robert and Eugene was the best. We all got along and respected each other’s space. And we enjoyed living in a cute home.

I was alone that night and decided to cook dinner. I put some oil in a pan to sauté some food. As the oil was heating the phone rang. I took the call. Was on the phone for maybe 2 minutes max. Not. Bright. Be ye never so stupid!

When I returned the pan was in flames and before I could get to it the flame leapt up and caught the wooden backsplash on fire. Holy moly. I wasn’t crazy panicked because I thought I could put it out. Of course we didn’t have a fire extinguisher. I soaked a dish towel and tried to smack the fire on the wall but that just seemed to tick it off and fan the flames. As more and more of the wall became engulfed it quickly dawned on me that this fire was now out of my control.

What do I do? What do I do? Stop, drop and roll? Where’s the dog? Do I crawl out under the smoke? What have I done? Why didn’t I pay better attention in school during fire safety week? Does throwing flour on a fire douse it or feed it? Only you can prevent forest fires! Hot! Hot! Hot! What do I do? Robert and Eugene are going to kill me if their fabulous ‘50s furniture goes up in flames. 911! 911! 911!

By the time the flames had climbed from the back splash to the bottom of the wooden cabinets, I had called 911, grabbed the dog and ran outside because I couldn’t take the sight of my kitchen burning up any longer.

Those were a long 5 minutes. I just stood there praying that the whole house wouldn’t go down. It was a rental! Would I be sued? Oh my gosh, should I pull my car out of the garage so it doesn’t burn up and explode? Robert and Eugene are going to kill me. What about my new suede jacket? Oh God, PLEASE SAVE THE NEW SUEDE JACKET!

About that time the full force of the north Austin fire station #11 descended on the cute pink house and they busted through the front door in full gear with axes and hoses and extinguishers. There was shouting and lights flashing and neighbors standing in the street. I just stood there holding Bela in total fear that I had really done it this time.

After what seemed like hours the fire fighters let me in to see the damage. Ohmygosh. It was pitch black because the electricity was out so they had big bright flood lights turned on that gave everything a surreal glow and an eerie feeling. There was smoke and stink everywhere. The fire had taken out almost all of the cabinets above and around the stove. To make sure the fire hadn’t burned through the ceiling above the cabinets the fire fighters had AXED through the roof leaving a huge, gaping hole. And of course everything was dripping in water and white foamy chemicals and the smell was just awful.

Not good.

I eventually gave my report and the guys were pretty nice. I got a couple of lectures about fire safety and the need to always have a fire extinguisher but mostly they just wanted to get out of there. So they took their flood lights and left. I sat there for awhile in the dark just trying to figure out what to do next. Lighting a candle for some light freaked me completely out so I mainly walked around with a flashlight.

When Robert got home around midnight, I didn’t say a word when he walked in. I was silent as he speechlessly looked around and tried to get a grip on the situation. And then… he busted out laughing and gave me a huge hug. That comic relief was like a dam had burst and I broke down in a weepy, wailing, ooey-gooey, charred mess. Robert was a good friend and he was so great talking me off that burning ledge that night, promising me that some day I would see some humor in the situation.

And in the end, it was manageable. The landlord didn’t freak. I paid the deductible. Our renter’s insurance paid for a service to come in and clean up the mess and repair the kitchen. We had to live for a week or so with giant, industrial sized fans blowing all of the time to dry things out and get rid of the smoke smell. It was like living in a construction zone for about 6 weeks, but it was finally all repaired and back to useable. We joked that maybe all of this trial and tribulation and $250 deductible was worth it because we got all new appliances.

I am forever grateful that the situation was contained as well as it was. We all know it could have ended up much, much worse. But I can say with confidence that I will probably always leave cooking with a flame to the professionals like Clifton. Just to be on the safe side.


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