on little cat feet like a fire inside of the dishwasher at 3:30 in the morning. Not only is that a great simile, it’s true. It actually happened. At 3:30 in the morning.
I awoke from a lovely slumber one very early morning recently, and noticed an odd scent. Blaming the open windows I turned my pillow over to the cool side, ready for sleep to take hold again. But it refused to take hold; it just sat there on it’s haunches, watching over me, willing me to notice that odd scent. Was it stronger? Maybe. Maybe just a little. Was somebody burning tires? Who is burning tires and how dare they ruin my sleep?!! I reluctantly shuffled over to the windows, sniffed, and decided that since the scent wasn’t stronger, the wind must be sweeping it magically away from the window, making it less pungent the closer I got. Satisfied that some complicated formula of physics was at work, I went back to bed. I rested my eyes for 20 seconds, and then both of them flung wide open as it hit me: It’s coming from inside the house. No sooner had the thought completed a full circuit through my suddenly hyper-sensitive synapses, I was out of bed and tripping over the dog, thinking Oh my God Sophie left the hot glue gun on and our insurance rates are going to kill us. After my husband kills us. But first I’m going to kill her. After I know she’s okay.
But it wasn’t the hot glue gun. It wasn’t the curling iron (my adorable daughter has lovely curly hair…why do we have this thing anyway?) It wasn’t anything in any of the bedrooms. I checked all three, efficiently and somewhat panic stricken. The fact that there was nothing almost made it worse. Everything is worse at 3:30 in the morning.
I not-so-gracefully dashed down the stairway. The stove. I must have left the stove on! I must have left the stove on, with a pot and the pot is burning and how am I going to explain this to the fire department? Oh God am I going to have to call them?! Do they keep a list of bad moms who let their children have their own hot glue guns and leave the stove on? Now our insurance rates are really going to kill us. And everyone knows insurance keeps tighter tabs on us than God does.
A voice inside my head was trying to get through it’s own fog…stop drop and roll! Stop drop and ROLL!! Or wait, didn’t they change that? Wasn’t it just stop and drop now? How can you be stopped, and be expected to roll, anyway? Thank God I know CPR. Oh wait, do I? How does that go again…one breath, two compressions? Maybe it’s compressions first, then a breath. Or did they change that? One finger up from the sternum…or is that only for infants? For crying out loud, they can’t even keep the Food Pyramid consistent for more than a decade at a time. Who put these people in charge, anyway?
The mystery intensified. I stood in my kitchen, trying to locate the source of the awful burning smell. Stove was off, oven was off, there was no hunk of smoldering stainless steel glaring at me. Thank God for that – once was enough (different fire, different house…a story for another time). But there was this misty sort of quietly swirling fog, and I stood there, slowly turning and weaving like a human divining rod with puffy eyes, until I faced the dishwasher. I stopped. I stared at it. It stared back. I blinked. It didn’t. It seemed to say ‘I’m fine. Open me. Go ahead. You know you want to.’ So I did.
The fog came in, and came in hot and smelly and oily. Something had happened in there- it was a pile of melted plastic, scorched sprayer arms and unrecognizable dishware. Pieces were melted onto other pieces like a badly done counterfeit Picasso, the kind that are almost impressive in their awfulness. Mystery solved. There had been a fire inside of the dishwasher. I closed it, not quite believing my eyes. I opened it again. Still a mess. I struggled momentarily: do I close it and contain it? Or do I leave it open and hope it cools down faster?
Now, though… now came the really hard part. The clock said 3:39 a.m. Do I call my husband? What do I say? Who wants to get a phone call from home at 3:39 in the morning when they are hundreds of miles away? I reached for the phone. I dialed. I cancelled the call and put the phone back. I repeated this pathetic demonstration of my inability to make a decision three more times. Well, okay, four more times, but the fourth time I didn’t actually dial (do people ‘dial’ anymore? Why do we say that? We don’t ‘dial’. We press. But ‘dialing’ sounds so much more substantial) so that doesn’t completely count.
Ultimately I did call, and instead of hearing a concerned 3:39 in the morning voice, I heard…voicemail. I was both annoyed and relieved that I could just leave a nice little message, ‘Oh hi, it’s just me…everything’sfine,thereissomethingweirdwiththedishwasher andI’mwonderinghowtodisconnectitbuteverythingisfine, talktoyoulaterbye’ as if saying it really fast somehow made it less of an issue. I instantly regretted making the call, feeling silly; there was nothing he could do about it anyway, why wake him up…and wondered a bit angrily why there wasn’t ‘unsend’ for voicemail, we have technology for everything else, they’ve even got the clouds mixed up in it now for Pete’s sake…if it wasn’t a big deal, why was I calling? And wait a minute…it’s 3:39 in the morning and I’m calling…how can you be sleeping while I am having an non-crisis here, one that I am perfectly capable of dealing with?! Do you know what mental anguish I have gone through just to complete this call?! But that is okay, because I can handle this. I was really just informing you of the situation. Do not help me! How dare you not help me?! Wow, I must be a pain to live with. I wonder if it’s noticeable? Probably not.
Besides, what was he going to do about it anyway? My thoughts wandered into the past, to another incident that also involved a fire…in a previous home, the gas fireplace had gone bananas, flames leaping to the ceiling. That time I did end up calling the fire department, and in an eerie coincidence, my husband was hundreds of miles away and had said ‘Well, I guess you’d better call the fire department’ when I had called. Which was both annoying and rational. Maybe it was annoying because it was rational. The thing I remember most about that was not the fire, but when prospective buyers asked me, ‘so, have you had any trouble with the fireplace?’ Maybe they worked for an insurance company.
After a couple of weeks of handwashing dishes (oh, the horror!), my new dishwasher arrived. I had hoped the installer, a super nice guy who looked alot like Randy Quaid on a bad day, would not bother looking inside of the old one, but he did. Maybe he was just curious…after all, the thing looked brand new on the outside. All he said was, ‘Hmmm. Looks like you had a meltdown in there”, which was fine by me, because the statement/observation was devoid of any judgement whatsoever, and that is exactly what I was after. Please don’t judge me. Please don’t tell me I must have done something, it had to have been my fault, this never happens…please just tell me you see this all time, it’s the most common thing ever, and if you only had a nickel for every time… wait a minute, are you judging me with your non-judgement?
It is no secret that I am not good with appliances. I don’t even have to touch them, and bad things happen. The Crock-Pot became a Crack-Pot just the other week, splitting down the middle, around the bottom, leaking barbeque sauce abundantly inside of the heating base (I was wondering why my barbeque chicken was smelling extra delicious); the washing machine, which had at first needed only a good pound on the lower left corner of the lid to get it going, but which suddenly required me to lift the entire back end of the machine off the floor, before letting it drop hard (but not too hard) back onto the floor in order for it to commence it’s job, decided that even that wasn’t enough anymore. A few months before, the dryer began to randomly threaten to light itself on fire. This latest fiasco with the dishwasher really didn’t surprise me. It seems to have surprised the poor souls that are forced to live with me even less. It’s more of a form of entertainment, sad as that is.
So yes, there seems to be a pattern of incidents involving fire sprinkled throughout our history of home ownership. Most people remember their houses by an address, or maybe the color, or the geography…for us, it’s the details of the fire. Not ‘if’ a fire had happened, because, well, it would appear that a fire has happened in every single home we have owned; no, it’s more of a question of the quality and location of the fire.
I am happy to report that the new dishwasher is doing just great; it’s some newfangled contraption that has more options than Adobe has updates. Better yet, I did not have to involve the insurance company at all and nobody killed anybody – a major plus in my book. There was a close call just yesterday morning, when, as I was unloading it, I held up a particularly odd coffee cup for my oldest daughter to see, saying ‘Wow, look at this, I put it through the dishwasher and it is crystal clear and didn’t even break!’ and just then that same coffee cup jumped out of my hand and shattered in a million pieces, mostly inside the dishwasher.