I think this happened last Tuesday night. All hell seems to break loose at the OGBF on Tuesdays. Last Tuesday the posts and comments here were going a mile a minute and I was hooked. I’d had dinner, but there was some duck fond in the pan, and some mushrooms in the refrigerator. I dragged myself away from the computer for a few minutes to start mushrooms with wine and cream sauce, and came back immediately. What seemed like five minutes later, I checked the mushrooms and they were cinders embedded in tar at the bottom of the pan; nothing was left. I quickly put the pan under running water to stop the burning. The fire alarm went off.
The alarm is controlled by some kind of panel with 20 buttons all with multiple functions, in a spot where there’s no light; even with a flashlight. I couldn’t figure out what to do, and with the the alarm shrieking from every corner of the house, I couldn’t think. I picked up the phone & tried to call maintenance (didn’t have a number for the security company; didn’t have the number for maintenance either, had to run all over the house to find it), but couldn’t get a dial tone because the alarm had taken over the phone line.
I ran outside to get away from the shrieking; took the cell phone with me but had to go back inside and find the number for maintenance again. The cell phone was dead. I never use it; it wasn’t charged. At some point the security company called (don’t know how THEY got through), said the fire department was on its way. I said “There’s NO FIRE; please call them off.” She asked for my password. I didn’t know my damn password. So now I’m probably a burglar who’s set my house on fire. I begged her; she wouldn’t give. She told me I could try calling 911 to cancel the fire department. I did. The fire department was on its way, too late to cancel.
I pushed some random buttons on the alarm, and the shrieking stopped. I used the five minutes of quiet to start trying to scrape the pan and throw the mushroom cinders into the garbage disposal. Then the alarm started up again, and the buttons I’d pushed before didn’t work this time, so I’m out on the sidewalk again. I run back to see what’s going on in OGBF; Jo Ellen Thompson is asking me to photoshop something…I see red lights flashing, run outside again. The fire truck drives right by me. I run into the road and try to signal; they just drive farther away (the house numbers make no sense around here). I give up and figure they’ll find me eventually; I go back into the house to try to comfort the cats, but they are cats, they are under beds and behind toilets and there’s no comforting them. And in the state I was in, I’d probably have added to their panic anyway.
From the computer room I can see still another flashing fire truck driving by, going to join the other one. They don’t notice me screaming and waving my arms as they drive by. I run back to computer and tell Jo Ellen that I can’t doctor the photo, I have to deal with the fire department. I run back outside (the alarms are still shrieking), and now the fire trucks are turned around and facing in this direction. I get into their headlights and wave like that guy on the runway; there’s no point screaming. You can’t hear anything with my fire alarms and their sirens. I run back to the computer. Lesleigh Ann Schaefer has photoshopped the photo. She’s brilliant.
Run outside again; this time the fire trucks are at the curb, and the guys are coming out. Eight of them. They tell me they’ve left their hatchets in the truck; for that I’m grateful. We’re all milling around my house, eight firemen in full gear, except for their hatchets, me apologizing, cats mum, trying to figure out how to disarm the alarm. One of them uses his cell phone to call maintenance (whose number I find AGAIN after 5 minutes of frantic searching – you leave things everywhere in a situation like this). Maintenance is already on its way because the security company called them.
Maintenance disarms the alarm. Please write this down: the code I need to punch is 2581+1 (for off) on the panel, and the password is VACATION. I may need you to remember this because I already have about 75 different user name/password combinations and one more is one too many.
The firemen are sorry the mushrooms were ruined because they would have liked to taste them. The firemen and the guy from maintenance tell me not to feel bad, some of my neighbors set off the fire alarms two and three times a week. I tell them that in my apartment in Philadelphia, the steak was done when the fire alarm went off. They all agreed that an industrial kitchen kind of exhaust fan, which is what I really need, would probably blow my matchbook of a house apart.
Everyone was gone and the house was quiet by 10PM. The fire was still roaring at the Open Group for Bedlam Farm.
That’s the story. I found the last missing phone in the mudroom last night, and the cell phone is charged (but I think the minutes have expired). It happened again last night, this time with a different pan and a vegetable stew, but I caught it before the alarm went off. The pan’s still soaking – nonstick will only take you so far, one cinder farther and forget about it.
Thanks very much, Ministry of Encouragement and Fire Hazards!