The Incorrigible Night Owl

November 3, 2004

Burn, baby, burn (kitchen inferno)

This past Monday night was our seventh wedding anniversary. In honor of reaching this momentous landmark in our marriage we wanted to mark the occasion with something spectacular. Diamonds? A trip to tropical Tahiti? Ha ha, it is to laugh! No, after much deliberation and careful planning, we decided to stay home and burn down our kitchen.

While the babysitter was settling in with the kids, Robert decided to load and run the dishwasher. After he turned it on I began to notice a very strong burning plastic smell. "That's odd," I thought. Assuming that something had fallen into the heating element (I do not know if this is even possible; but it sounded plausible and I am not a dishwasher repairman) I stopped the cycle and opened it up. I noticed that the smell was not coming from inside but from the crack between the dishwasher and the cabinet. The unit was full of water so, totally not thinking, I decided to drain it. Well, this involves turning the power back on, which soon proved to be a Big Mistake. It was at this point that black smoke started curling out from somewhere behind the unit, and I began to get mildly concerned.

I summoned Robert, who, for some mysterious reason, didn't seem to think that smoke and foul odor alone were enough reasons to get excited, and he grumbled about what was he supposed to do about it the whole way in. That was when I happened to peer into the crack between the dishwasher and the cabinet and saw flames. F L A M E S! In my freaking cabinets! So I grabbed the phone and, very calmly, called 911.

The 911 lady told me to get everyone out of the house so I walked to Madalyn's room and informed the sitter, "We have to go outside now because the dishwasher is on fire." Cosmo had taken off as soon as we threw the doors open and I wasn't worried about Grace, who was at the opposite end of the house, under the bed. I grabbed a laundry basket and deposited the bunny and the guinea pig in it and took them outside.

During all of this my dear husband had the presence of thought to realize that the firemen were going to come with their Huge. Freaking. Hoses. Which they would then drag through our house and use to soak everything within forty feet of the kitchen, living room included. Also that the fire department here, most of whom were probably just sitting down to dinner, tends to not rush if they can possibly help it -- you know, as a matter of principle. You rush for one person and the next idiot that calls will expect you to get there quickly, too. They have to draw the line somewhere! So, anyway, envisioning the fire breaking through into the wall and traveling up to the attic (a very real possibility), he quickly went out to the back yard and grabbed the garden hose and put the fire out himself. By the time the fire department got here (Three trucks. Plus an ambulance. Yes, it is a small town) all that was left was for them to set up their smoke sucking machine to clear the air and then stand around in a circle on the neighbors' lawn for fifteen minutes, guffawing and yakking jovially, as if my entire family had not just narrowly escaped a painful, fiery death. (Yeah, so I'm exaggerating. But still...)

So that was our main excitement for our anniversary. I could mention how we'd gone out to lunch while the kids were both at preschool, and had real adult conversation about the election, or how we went ahead and went out anyway after we mopped up the kitchen. (Hey, the sitter was already here. Everyone was fine. Can't waste an opportunity like that). But, really, neither of those things will be the first thing I think of when I recall this day, years down the road. I guess you could look at it as I get a brand-new dishwasher for my anniversary. On the whole, though, I'd really rather have had that trip to Tahiti.