Minutes 2 Midnight

"Do you remember where you were when?..." That question sums up the purpose of this site. When reflecting upon any occasion of great importance, most people remember vividly where they were and what they were doing when the event occurred. Am I the only one who finds these reflections fascinating? I'm thinking "probably not", but let's see if you agree. Take a look at the topics below (in the "Categories" or "Recent Posts" sections), choose one of interest to you, and add your story.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Great Fire of '95 (...or thereabouts)

I'm feeling in a bit of a quirky mood, today, and it occurs to me that I should take the occasion to write about The Great Fire. "Great Fire," you say? "Would that be the Great Chicago Fire?" No, no, that would be the Great-Kitchen-Fire-Caused-By-Overheated-Cooking-Fat fire. There's a difference. Yes, today I've decided to write about something with which none of my readers will have any semblance of familiarity. But hey, Author's License, right? Every once in awhile, Midnight must indulge.

So, let me set this up for you: It was early evening some 10 or 11 years ago at the family homestead (read "house"). My brother had dropped by for a visit and was downstairs somewhere while I was upstairs in the bathroom - looking in the mirror while getting ready for something or other. All of the sudden I heard a loud commotion downstairs: raised voices, rapidly approaching and retreating footsteps, the general sounds that one only hears when something-not-quite-right either has occurred, is occurring, or will be occurring momentarily. I flew downstairs to determine just how rapidly my heart should be beating, and quickly traced Commotion Ground Zero to the kitchen area. Stopping short as soon as I rounded the corner, I at last saw the cause of the melee: There, in front of me, were flames shooting upward from the stove - licking the cabinet and microwave oven above them. Said microwave was emitting a loud lowish-pitched moan - something akin to what you might expect to hear emanating from the gullet of a wounded water buffalo. More chaotic than this, though, was the sight of various and sundry members of my family, exhibiting unexpected reactions to the calamity: Dad had dashed into a nearby storage closet where we kept a fire extinguisher handy, and was holding the Red Avenger like a fearless hunter with his trusty weapon...but he couldn't figure out how to make it fire. Meanwhile, my brother - having learned from countless childhood classroom instruction the basics of Stop, Drop, and Roll, was crouched on all fours - exiting the immediate smoke-filled vicinity as best he could in the awkward position. Mom was there as well, but in the excitement I couldn't hear clearly what she was saying or see what she was doing. As all of this was going on, my mind blanked for a second, but then I remembered that there was a second fire extinguisher in the basement. Finally given something to focus on, I ran downstairs, retrieved the extinguisher, and brought it back to the site of the still-raging fire. Quickly, I adopted the same fearless hunter stance that Dad had employed. With the same result. In a flash, Dad looked over at me - exasperated - when he realized that I was apparently having no more luck with my extinguisher than he was having with his. "Well, how do you work this thing?!" he asked, annoyed and breathless.
"I don't know." I replied. "I'm pressing the trigger but it's not going down."
"You mean we've got 9 degrees in this house and no one knows how to work this thing?!" he asked, incredulous. This was too much. Mom, Dad, my brother, and I all burst out laughing. The fire would have to wait.

After finally regaining some measure of self-control, I tried to focus once again, finally thinking disgustedly to myself that I was going to have to read the blasted fire extinguisher directions (keeping in mind, here, that the geek aversion to reading any directions of any kind is legend). So, I turned the extinguisher around such that the affixed instructions were facing me (hey, we were nothing if not prepared. Even though we had no idea what the colorful metaphor we were doing) and began to read.

It took me a second to absorb the step-by-steps in the surrounding chaos, but I was finally able to make heads and tails of them. Carefully executing the instructions, I disengaged the trigger lock, pointed the extinguisher at the fire and squeezed. White foam spewed from the canister, and...oh...I felt the power. I was Conan. I was Xena. Hear me roar. Thrilled with the immediate death of the flames that were hit with the foam, I aimed the nozzle at anything that was red, hot, and sparkly - and probably at several things that weren't. All too soon (I was having fun at this point), it was over. The fire was out, and the kitchen was bathed in foam.

And then the fire trucks arrived.

After the adrenaline rush from the excitement exited unceremoniously from within to without, I suddenly came to the realization that all of the smoke that I had inhaled prior to my Conanic conversion was starting to take a little bit of a toll. Without the benefit of the adrenaline (which does wonders for those - like myself - who grew up with asthma), the reality of the situation was really beginning to kick in. And my lungs were the ones getting kicked. Not wanting to take any chances, Dad decided to run me over to the ER while Mom and my brother stayed behind with the firefighters.

In the hospital, the attending nurse did what I suppose they usually do in such cases: drew blood in order to take a gas content analysis. Fortunately, everything came back fine, and I just ended up taking a little something for the asthma. Then it was back to the homestead again.

There, the kitchen was sorry and damp - doused as it had been by the foam. The remains of the microwave were charred and cave-like, but I found myself glad that at least the annoying thing wasn't screaming anymore. In time the microwave was replaced, the damaged cabinets were repaired, and the kitchen gleamed again as if nothing had ever happened. I found out later that the fire had started in a pan where hot oil had been left on the stove for just a tad too long.

But all was well that ended well, and I must say that once the initial chaos, panic, and sheer annoyance (Dad) was over, it did make for a great story. I put it in my Christmas letter that year.

So! Obviously, none of you can really contribute to the question: "Where were you during the Great-Kitchen-Fire-Caused-By-Overheated-Cooking-Fat fire?", so we'll have to improvise. Do any of you have recollection of somewhat maniacal family events that seemed ominous at first, but that - looking back - just melded into a good story? Send us your thoughts. We'll keep you posted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your story was vey interesting. However, instead of a picture of a fire extinguisher - I think a picture of you in the aforementioned "Xena" costume would be really cute.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Midnight Oil said...

Hi Anonymous,

Ah, but you forget that there was also a reference to Conan in there. I'm not so sure that the Xena costume would ensemble well with hairy legs and a 6-pack.

So which is it? Is Midnight a "Conan" or a "Xena"? I'll never tell :)

Thanks for the post. You're my second commenter!

3:16 AM  

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