Saturday, September 21, 2013

Confessions of a Postpartum Pyrophobic

I'm back after a little blog hiatus, during which I worked on some random home improvement projects that have been basically breathing down my neck to get me to finish them. Don't worry; I will post some shocking before and after pics in a bit.

But for now, I have a tale to tell. I've thought about this recently because it has to do with our house, and I've been working on our house. And every single time, I let out a loud guffaw and cringe in embarrassment even though the events took place a year ago. Just imagine me cringing right now.

The first thing you must know is that we're close to a volunteer fire department, and that they sound an alarm every day at both noon and 5 pm that can be heard for miles. One day, after moving here from Louisville, Kentucky, I heard this alarm, thought it was a tornado siren, and started to take cover before being told by Greg to stop. That will give you an idea of how loud, long and pervasive this alarm is. (Now when I hear it I just break into a rendition of Beyonce's "Ring the Alarm," but back to my story.)

We bought our house a year ago when Darby was five months old. If you missed my post, "Old House Hate," you don't know that this house is old and crappy. I mean, we have a new bathroom and new windows throughout, but we also have a kitchen sink that may be about to fall through the floor, and a basement office that probably has a dead body buried underneath, judging by the smell. 

The surprises in this house began to reveal themselves on our first night (which is a story in itself, so I'll save that one) so you can understand my reaction to the following:

Several days after moving, I had things organized enough to cook dinner on the gas stove. Oh yeah: I'd never used a gas stove, never lived in a house with a gas stove; there's actually a good possibility that I'd never seen a gas stove before, so I was not comfortable with it, to say the least. I was also alone because Greg was at work.

Long story short, I tried about 43 times to light the burners, to no avail. You know what your elementary school parking lot smelled like after the bell rang and 25 busses sat idling for half an hour, and you had to walk past all of them and thought you would pass out from the smell of gasoline? That is what my kitchen smelled like after this procedure. But Greg was at work, so I kept my cool.

Translation: I took Darby outside for the remainder of the afternoon, and when Greg came home, told him that we were eating out because our stove was broken. Later, I put Darby to bed while Greg inspected the gas stove, easily lit the burners, told me it was fine and the smell was normal, and then I went on the internet.

Probably the worse thing I could have done at that moment was to google the phrase, "It smells like gasoline when I try to light my stove," so that is what I did. In my defense, I read legitimate websites dedicated to public explosion safety, rather than yahoo message boards. Maybe that's why I got freaked out. The legitimate websites were telling me that if you ever smell a whiff of gasoline in your home, you march yourself and your children outside and call 911.

I informed Greg of my concern late that night and he blew me off with, "My grandparents had a gas stove and it smelled every time. It's not gasoline." I responded with, "Oh, so our stove is emitting fumes that smell like gasoline; no biggie. Did you know that gasoline fumes can linger overnight, and in the morning, someone turns on a light switch and the entire place blows up! I just read about it online! What about Darby?!"

"Well? What do you want me to do? It's two o'clock in the morning. Call 911?" he asked.

This was followed by an awkward silence.

*Sigh* ... "Ok, get me my phone," he said, with the resignation in his voice that only comes from being married to me for six years.

"Ok, ok!" I replied, "But please tell them not to turn on the sirens in their truck. In fact, just tell them we need one guy with a gas detector; nothing more. We don't want the entire neighborhood to hate us already!

I heard him tell the operator what was going on and that we needed a gas leak check; no sirens or anything. Then he hung up and said,

"The guy told me he would request no sirens, but that he has no guarantee that they will comply."

"Great," I muttered.

"He also said we should take Darby and go wait outside until they clear the property."

I turned toward the hall, and I'm not lying; it was 45 seconds after Greg hung up with the operator, but what did we immediately hear from a few blocks down the road? The loudest, longest volunteer fire department alarm in the world. Actually, it was their normal, every day alarm, but it was going off at 2 am in dead silence, so it was like an atom bomb for your ears.

"What?!" I exclaimed. "How did--- so soon? We asked for them to be quiet--- wouldn't they think---? Arrghh, everyone's going to hate us."

We all three stepped outside minutes later and observed them coming down the road. Their sirens were silenced, but every light on those trucks was flashing like there was no tomorrow, and there were six full fire trucks; that right, six. It looked like dawn. If the alarm didn't wake up the neighbors, a hundred lights flashing into their bedrooms did, because we saw them emerging from their front doors, tying their bathrobes and staring at us.

The firemen jumped out. Bless their hearts; there were dozens of them in full gear, and they were excited. They rushed onto the "scene" and they meant business. This was around the time when I thought I might slip into the backyard and avoid eye contact with any human for the next hour, but that wasn't going to happen if they had anything to do about it. Greg debriefed the main guys on the "situation," then they made a bee-line for me before I could scurry away. They were very considerate. They invited ordered me to take Darby and wait in the warm cab of one of the trucks, since it was November and cold.

By the way, the only person more excited than the firemen about what was happening was Darby. I had wrapped her in the first thing I could lay my hands on: a very large and unnecessarily thick, adult quilt. Don't ask me why. It was cumbersome with Darby inside, and I needed some awkward assistance getting into the cab. But once we were inside, Darby stared at the goings on like it was the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, I watched the firemen run around our house and tried to ignore irrational thoughts like, 'I wonder if they like my decorating?' Judging by the random places from where I saw their blue light gas leak detectors shining, they found nooks and crannies that we didn't know existed. They were very thorough, and at the end of the ordeal, I felt quite safe in my own home.

Well, as they say, all good things do come to an end, and pretty soon, they made their way back to their trucks. I caught them exchanging disheartened expressions that could only mean, "Man! I got out of bed for this? I was banking on some sort of fiery disaster. Just a little explosion or something."

I jumped down from the cab on my own (I didn't want anyone helping me who was disheartened that my house wasn't blowing up.) and the "chief" made his way over to me. He was an older gentleman, and he explained to me that the smell was not gasoline, but a natural by-product of older gas stoves. He very slowly explained that the men had held their gas leak detectors right above our stove with all four burners raging, and picked up nothing. 

I nodded, smiled, thanked him, and made my way inside feeling like a fifth grader who had been lectured by her science teacher, but not before a sweet, older neighbor approached me. Rather than annoyed, he seemed pleased at the delightful disruption to his ordinary nightly activities, and invited Greg and I to sleep over at their house if need be. But we weren't up for a slumber party.

Greg was waiting for me in the kitchen. I hadn't seen him at all because he had been inside with the firemen. 

"Hey," I said. "So ... guess you were right."


"Did the chief talk to you? He came right over to me. I thought that was odd..." I remarked.

"It's probably because I told him you were the one who was worried and made me call 911."

"You said that?"

"Oh yeah. I'm not gonna lie; it was pretty embarrassing being in here when they were hovering around trying to find a gas leak in a perfectly safe kitchen. So I told them I knew it was normal, but you wouldn't believe me so we called 911 to ease your mind."

"What?" I demanded.

"Yeah, I pretty much just threw you under the bus the whole time. Sorry."

"Hmmm," I said, then paused and shrugged. "Yeah, I pretty much deserved that. Sorry babe!"


  1. Loved it. :) It sounds like a perfect idea for a TV episode of I Love Lucy, which you are probably much too young to know about or remember!!

    1. Haha, I definitely know the show, and my life does feel a tad bit like that sometimes!

  2. Gotta love those firemen! My mother used to come put the boys in the bus for school. Matt & Nic had their own rooms downstairs with the basement door in between.
    One morning as she opened the bedroom doors, she smelled gas. (My mother's olfactory beats a bloodhound)
    After calling Columbia Gas, the boys told her it was indeed gas....from the previous night's chili.
    She still hasn't quite forgiven me for not giving granddaughters.

  3. Nuh-uh. I am not kidding, this EXACT thing happened to us a few years ago. I blogged about it at the link below. It turned out we did have a gas leak, but even if yours wasn't a leak, you did the right thing! My FIL & BIL both work for the gas company and they will be the first ones to tell you that it is not something to mess with.


    1. No way! Thanks for making me feel less ridiculous! I can't say that I ever regretted the decision to be safe than sorry, but it was pretty awkward.

  4. I enjoyed reading your story! Looking forward to your blogs! Thank you so much!.