November 16, 2011

It sucks to be a grown up

I grew up never thinking twice about leaving the house with the dryer running.  Then I knew someone whose house burned down, because of a dryer fire.  I clean the lint trap religiously, but ever since that day, some 15 years ago, I have never left the house without first stopping the dryer.  The other day I had promised Boom that I would dry the basketball towels for her while she was at school, as the team had games two days in a row.  I forgot until just before it was time to pick up kids from school.  I really, really wanted to leave the dryer running, but I just couldn't do it, envisioning the headlines about the tragedy that struck the one time I wasn't cautious.

I frequently use a Crock Pot, leaving dinner bubbling away on the counter for hours during the day (with a mandatory clear space perimeter of 18 inches in every direction.  My mom just recently parted with the Crock Pot of my childhood - the one with a piece of Wonder Bread wrapper fused to the side from a too-close encounter years ago).  Occasionally I will leave something cooking in the oven if I leave the house for a short period of time.  I do not leave anything cooking on the stove.  Ever.  Sure, my grandmother did it.  My mom does it.  My aunts still do it.  Not me.  Doesn't matter if it is an electric or gas range, I just don't feel comfortable with it.

I am a bit of a fanatic about lamps now, as well.  We don't have anything other than a couple of desk and nightstand lamps in our house, but I always make sure they are off.  A few years ago, our neighbors across the street were in the habit of leaving an old torch lamp on in the garage.  One night their cat knocked it over, and their garage went up in flames.  (This is the fire that Boom slept through, even though the fire engine, blazing lights and sirens, parked right outside her bedroom window).

I have sleepless nights this time of year, when we first turn on the heater.  Those first few times that the heater kicks on and burns off the accumulation of dust from the summer, emitting that burnt smell, freaks me out.  I lay there wondering if that is all it is.  Or could there be a fire in the attic?  Thank goodness we have all electric, gas furnaces really cause anxiety for me.

My grandparents had a furnace in the basement, and a (third-degree burn inducing) metal floor grate on the main level that let the heat up into the house.  On cold mornings we would fight for a spot straddling it.  There is nothing more pleasant than your nightgown billowing out in a bell, as the heat wafts up, warming your nether regions!  I remember it with fondness and horror.  That thing could have killed someone.  We laugh about the grid-mark scars many of us have from rolling onto the searing-hot grate while sleeping on the floor.  Someone could have been seriously injured! 

It sucks to grow up and have a 'I knew somebody that ________' tragedy story for countless everyday occurrences.  For me it means stress, worry and a rigid checklist of things that must be marked off before I can leave the house or sleep at night.  If someone else leaves the dryer on or leaves a stew on the stove, I don't file it away as comforting knowledge that it can be done without a bad ending, I instead chalk it up to luck that nothing burnt down and nobody died.

I never used to worry about much more than where the party was at, or when payday was.  I was game for anything, danger be damned.  Bungee jumping?  You bet.  Bumper skiing?  Let's do it.  Drag racing in reverse.  It's on.  Good Lord, what have I become?


InsomniacSeeker said...

and the ever popular chinese fire drill while dragging main street.

CenTexTim said...

You have become my mother...