Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Putting Out Fires

That title is not some creative metaphor for how life is about overcoming obstacles.  It's about an actual fire.  Ok, maybe just smoke and not a raging inferno, but stories are always better when you exaggerate a little.  An author who shall go unnamed - but since he's the only author I know you can probably guess - calls it "creative license."  Hint... hint... he looks like the Dos Equis beer commercial guy.
Anyway, so I woke up early this morning ahead of the alarm.  This is highly unusual for me, as I am not exactly an early riser, and was perhaps a sign I didn't see that more unusual events were in store.  I do enjoy waking up early on occasion though and having that first cup of coffee or two or three before the sun comes up.  So that's what I did.  And you can imagine what happened.  I went from calm, peaceful guy watching the sun come up on the front porch to supercharged wild man all hopped up on the bean running around with too many thoughts to even process.  This was perhaps the beginning of my problem.
One thought that sort of gelled was that since it was so early I had time to make a huge breakfast of steak and eggs.  I think of myself as some steak master, and the routine is to salt a rib eye heavily, sear a nice crust in a frying pan, and then stick it in an iron skillet in a 350° oven for just a couple minutes.  They come out perfectly every time - warm through and pink in the middle with that delicious crust.  But the damn oven takes like 10 minutes to preheat, and I had finished all the coffee.  This meant I'd just be sitting there twiddling my hyperactive thumbs while waiting on the stupid orange light to go out.  That scenario was intolerable for coffee crack head man.
The solution... flip the oven on and jump in the shower.  YES!  BRILLIANT!  By the time I hopped out, it would be time to sear that steak and throw it in the hot oven.  So that's what I did.  At least it's what I thought I did.  I was in there happily lathering up - it may as well have been an Irish Spring commercial - when my bliss was interrupted by this shrill beeping.  I knew what it was immediately, because I've done it numerous times before, though never while showering... the damn smoke alarm in the kitchen.  The difference this time was that it was like 6:00 a.m., not 4:00 in the afternoon.
So out I scrambled; water and soap flying everywhere.  I ran in the kitchen and immediately discovered the problem.  In my haste, I had flipped the switch for one of the stove burners instead of the oven.  Rather than storing my favorite pan like a normal human, I just leave it sitting on that burner, ready for whipping up something yummy at a moment's notice.  Why reach in a cabinet to get something out when you can just leave it out all the time?  Why wash your car when it's going to just get dirty again?  Why mow the grass or get a haircut when... ah, never mind, this is sort of a ludicrous train of thought.  But I think leaving a pan out is acceptable, except when you can't work your oven and end up ruining the pan by melting the Teflon into a gooey, smoking paste that's mistaken by your imperceptive smoke detector for a five-alarm fire.
You know the definition of multi-tasking?  Doing more than one thing at a time - in my case cooking and showering - badly.  I've never met a good multi-tasker, but I've met plenty of people who could bungle a conversation with me while trying to drive to the market.  They give nonsensical answers to questions.  They sometimes don't even answer the question that was asked.  Hell, maybe they're texting too and really got confused.  I've even been called the wrong name.  Way to engage, "friend."  I'm glad this moment we're sharing means so much to you.  Good lord.  And I guarantee they sucked at the driving too.  While else would I hear honking in the background and the occasional "Oh, shit."?  That's certainly not defensive driving.
Enough of that rant and back to this rant.  After flipping the burner off and throwing the smoking pan in some water, I jumped up on a chair and started frantically waving a towel at the alarm.  This always worked in the past, but of course it wouldn't work when the entire neighborhood is asleep and I really need  a break. Nope.  Nothing.  Thirty seconds of naked arm flapping seemed like three hours.  And of course the walls are paper thin, so I could hear the neighbor and his girlfriend rustling around.  Shit!  He even muttered something under his breath about the incompetent idiot below.  Think fast, Chuck!  Think fast!
BAM!  In my panic, I accidentally got too close with my towel waving and knocked the whole damn alarm off the wall.  It flew one direction and the battery another.  Oh well.  Problem solved.  Lacking much of a filter on what I say, I jumped down from my precarious perch on the chair and blurted out, "No worries.  Go back to bed.  Everything is under control now.  I'm a fireman!"
Jeesh.  Forget this shower, I thought.  I'm clean enough, and I'm certainly dry after all that jumping around.  Time to cook that steak.  Ah, there's the little oven dial I meant to hit.  At least I'd be able to get dressed while waiting for the dumb thing to preheat.  I mean, showering is one thing, but I could get dressed right there in the kitchen where I could multi-task efficiently and keep an eye on everything.  Right?  Well that's what I thought.
So there I am with one shoe on and one in my hand, hopping up and down and trying to slip it on the other foot, when the damn alarm in the far room starts going off.  WHAT THE HELL!  I'm standing right there looking around the kitchen and there's no freaking problem!  Off I run through the house to determine the source of this latest annoyance.
Entering the living room, the issue is immediately apparent.  A cloud of smoke has floated over from the kitchen and is hovering above my head like an early morning fog enveloping the entire room.  I'm not even fooling around this time.  There isn't going to be any waving this oppressive haze out of the way.  It's everywhere.  Hell, I'll be lucky if it doesn't choke me out and finish me right here.  Not really, but again, the story is better with a little element of danger thrown in for effect.
I'm hurriedly dragging a chair over to stand on while I remove the battery when I hear it.  The recluse upstairs has never once spoken to me, preferring to gripe about me to his girlfriend as if I can't hear his every word, but he's picked now to man up and come out of his shell.
"You are the worst fucking fireman EVER!" he screams in disgust.
I had to laugh.  It really was funny.  It was also true.  But I didn't care.  I knew the best fireman EVER!