After the Fact: Come on, baby, lite my fire


It was nearly midnight (and somewhere below zero degrees outside) when Chris came tearing into my bedroom to announce that she smelled smoke. Obviously, we weren’t cooking and, had a burner been left on, any ensuing fire would have overtaken the kitchen before then. My sense of smell, along with my hearing, has faded over the years but, yes, once I came out to the kitchen, something was definitely amiss. After some discussion, Patience was aroused and we were all prepared to evacuate before we even called the fire department.

We asked if a sheriff’s officer could first be sent out to assess the situation but were informed that there are “protocols” in situations as this. Who knew? But acquiescing to our concerns, the fire trucks and accompanying ambulance arrived with all lights flashing, but no sirens. 

Patience was wearing her new monkey pajamas that look like a blanket with legs and a hood with ears; Chris had more subdued pajamas, a robe and her Sargent Farmer’s jacket, all color-coordinated. Similarly, I wore pajamas, my long, fuzzy, pink robe and an even longer winter coat that made me look like a pudgy Red Ridinghood. I won’t even hazard to describe the just-out-of-bed hair-do’s except to let you picture a troop of startled hedgehogs. 

True to that same law that says you’re going to spill a glass of burgundy wine on your white dress when you’re at a cocktail party hosted by your boss, we looked like we’d just been guests at the wildest blanket party ever in contrast to the absolute gorgeousness of the Monte Vista firemen. If ever they sell a calendar, I’m going to be first in line and every Golden Girl I know is going to get one for Christmas! We may be a little older than these boys, but we still like to look!

We always stop on the street to put a few dollars in the fireman’s boot when they have a fundraiser, but I’m going to have to watch Chris next time or she’ll give away every cent in our pockets and bankrupt our bank accounts! You know we’ll be at every pancake breakfast, chile dinner or lemonade stand they ever have: these guys are worth their weight in gold, and they VOLUNTEER to provide this service to the community! 

Not that I had intention of leaving my then-employment, but at 60, I told a few of “the girls” that I was thinking about what I could pursue as my next career. I was only semi-not-serious when I said I might apply at the fire department but gave up the idea when they asked if I could cook. My shortcomings for this job far exceed my abilities.

As it turned out, we didn’t experience an out-and-out fire: the burning smell came from an old ballast that held a neon tube which had burned out. Knowing a great deal more than we did about things electrical, the guys removed the ballast and taped the wires while instructing us to call an electrician the next day. Which we did, of course. And the whole experience reminded us to check the batteries on our smoke alarms and we’ll need to buy a new fire extinguisher, which I’ve neglected for the past several years.

If ever this happens again, PLEASE let there be enough time for me to at least brush my hair before the firemen come through my door. And polish my nails. And dab on a little Shalimar perfume.

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