Fires, Floods, and the Queen of Capability

Operator: 911, what is your emergency?

Me, trying to sound pleasant, professional, and non-panicked: Um, my oven is on fire, and I’m not sure what to do.

Operator: Hello? Is anyone there?

Me, far less non-panicked than before: Yes! Yes can you hear me? I said my oven is on fire!

Operator: Would you like police, fire, or medical.

Me, close to losing it: FIRE!

Operator: Please hold.

Me: *glances awkwardly at the pluming cloud of black smoke blooming from my oven, then awkwardly goes outside because I don’t want to stand around in an apartment with a fire in it.*

New Operator: Fire department, what is your emergency?


Me, keeping it together with difficulty: My oven is on fire, and I’m not sure what to do.

New Operator: Where are you located?

Me: *Gives apartment complex name and location*

New Operator: I’m going to need your exact address.

Me: Um…

New Operator: Do you not know your address?

Me, sweating: Uh, well, we just moved here, and we don’t get mail here yet, and the mailing address is the complex address, not our particular building, so…

New Operator: Well, is it not printed on your lease agreement?


Ok, can I just interrupt with some commentary here? I don’t have a lot of experience with fire emergencies. Actually, I don’t have ANY experience with fire emergencies except for that one time my sister managed to catch a paper towel on fire while making PopTarts (that takes some serious talent) and just threw it in the kitchen sink and ran water over it to put it out. But I do know that A.) You’re not supposed to go back into a building that has a fire in it, and B.) responding to a fire is a little bit time sensitive. Going back into my apartment to dig through my husband’s file box in search of our lease agreement so that I could find the address was contrary to both of those fire safety tips. Anyway.

So her next suggestion was that I go to the office and ask for the address of apartment unit number. So cut to me, sprinting across the apartment complex and bursting in the office doors, full Aragorn son of Arathorn style, blurting out that my kitchen was on fire and scaring the living daylights out of the ladies working in the office and (I am so ashamed) the potential renters they were meeting with.

Do you ever get the feeling you are the walking embodiment of disaster? Cause I do.

I sat outside marinating in shame while the firemen dealt with my oven. Turns out it was just a grease fire that probably could’ve burned out on its own, but when I went to peek at my casserole and instead of delicious sizzling chicken I saw the fires of Mount Doom, I panicked. I don’t own a fire extinguisher. And if I did, I wouldn’t know how to operate it. Heck, I don’t even know my own address!

I escaped with little more than a blackened kitchen and a snarky remark from the maintenance man that I needed cooking lessons. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually had a full time job as a cook as little as five months ago.) My very kind and patient husband got home and told me to take a hot shower while he went to get us Chinese takeout—even though I had set the kitchen ablaze while trying to cook one of his favorite foods.

I’m just gonna stop right here and tell you there’s no moral to this story. A lot of times when I write blog posts I try to make a point, to turn my experiences into some everyday application. It’s like at the end of some cartoon episodes where characters sit around and discuss what their adventures made them learn about themselves (bison time, am I right, Claire?) Well, none of that today. Today I just need to write through some things and hopefully give you a laugh or two and maybe assure you that if you feel like the Princess of Disaster, you are most certainly not alone.

In the middle of the flaming oven debacle, I had the most random thought. It’s interesting how billowing black smoke and being on hold with the fire department will mess with your brain. Cause for some reason, my brain said, “Well, throw all your laundry on it. That’s how you solved your last kitchen emergency!”

I am so glad for impulse control.

In explanation, my last kitchen emergency was a flood. NOT a fire.

This was in November, back in Northern Ireland. We had been having trouble with our hot water heater/reservoir that we used for cooking and for having instant boiling water at all times—which is amazing when you live in the UK and it’s perfectly acceptable and even almost expected to drink tea like five times a day. Or more. Anyway, we knew it had been leaking for a while but it was a slow leak and a tray underneath it that we emptied daily seemed to be doing the trick.

Well, for some reason the hot water thing changed its mind about the leak unexpectedly. Ergo, some of the students and I walked into the kitchen to discover about a centimeter of standing water covering the kitchen floor. And in an industrial-sized kitchen, this was no small puddle. My first thought? We need to find an adult! Oh darn! I AM the adult!

We stuck the treacherous water heater in the sink and tried to deal with the damage best we could. Mops weren’t doing much against it. They were basically just pushing all the water around in little ripples.  As fun and slightly pretty as it is to turn a kitchen into a tranquil pond with nice little ripples, it wasn’t exactly what we were going for. So after a bit of useless mopping, I had the bright idea to overturn the kitchen laundry basket in the middle of the flooded floor. A week’s worth of dirty washrags, towels, tablecloths, and aprons splooshed into the middle of Lake Kitchen and soaked up a good deal of it, to where the mops could actually take care of the rest.

Sometimes dirty laundry fixes everything, I guess. Just not fires.

If we can overlook the shameful oven fire episode—and that one other time when my dishwasher melted itself and filled the apartment with noxious fumes and smoke, but we don’t need to talk about that now— the past two months of being a full-fledged married woman and Qualified Adult™ have been a walk in the park. Haha. (My roomie says my life could be an I Love Lucy-style 1950s sitcom.) Seriously though, half the time I feel on top of the world, and the other (more realistic half) I realize I have very little idea what I’m doing but I just keep doing it anyway. I don’t know why people think they need to spend money or go somewhere exciting or do something intentionally risky to “have adventures.” I’ve got adventures every day of my life—admittedly I handle some of them better than others.

My first semester of college, I took a class on the Chronicles of Narnia and Theology of C.S. Lewis. It was one of the best classes I ever took. After the final, our dear professor awarded each person in the class with a Narnian name based on our personality and character, crowning us Kings and Queens of Narnia. You know like how at the end of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Aslan calls them King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, etc.? Just like that. We had a coronation ceremony where we all called out “Long live King [insert student’s name here]!” after they had been crowned. It was so fun, and a great thing to remember your classmates by.

Wanna know what my name was?  Queen Hannah the Capable. (Feel free to laugh.) But hey, you know what they say, “Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen.” So I am the Queen of Capability whether I look like it or not. After all, I didn’t burn the house down.

Now I just need to learn my own address and everything will be fine.




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