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Published:June 6th, 2011 11:58 EST
The Smoke Alarm Dance

The Smoke Alarm Dance

By Donna Cavanagh

I started to make spaghetti sauce. I was browning garlic in olive oil when the phone rang. It was a person I was trying to interview for an article for the past week. Immediately, I headed upstairs to my office to conduct the interview which took about 10 minutes.  It wasn`t until one of the smoke alarms went off that I realized I had forgotten about the olive oil and garlic on the stove.     

I ran down the steps, and immediately noticed the heavy smoke filling the living room.  In the kitchen, flames were flying from the pot that was sitting on the burner. I turned off the stove, covered the pot and threw it in the sink to cool off. Then, I grabbed a dishtowel and ran to the smoke detector to begin the Smoke Detector dance.    

What, you don`t know the dance? Oh, well let me explain it to you.  The Smoke Detector dance is when the idiot who forgot she had boiling oil on the stove must now find a way to trick the smoke detector into thinking that the toxic smoke has dissipated and is no longer a danger.  Usually, the dance involves jumping up and down like a maniac while waving a dishtowel or pot holder in front of the sensor on the alarm.   

Luckily for me, the dance was a success and the alarm closest to the kitchen did go silent after a few seconds. Not so lucky for me, the smoke had made its way to other parts of the house and all the other alarms in the house started blaring at once. I was running up and down the stairs waving anything I could find in front of the detectors trying to shut them up.  Since I stopped flailing at the first alarm, the smoke returned to its sensor too and it felt the need to screech again. I did manage to get the windows open, but the fresh air was not enough to deactivate the smoke. Finally, in an act of desperation, I took all the batteries out of the smoke alarms.  Silence truly is golden.     

Hey, it`s not my fault that the smoke detectors can`t tell a real fire from a not-so-real fire. It is my sincerest opinion that smoke detectors should have a "Sorry, I screwed up, but the house is not burning down" switch that shuts off the alarm sound on voice command.     

After I got the alarms disabled, I went to assess the damage in the kitchen. There was nothing I couldn`t clean up in an hour. Sure, some of my white cabinets wore a coating of black, greasy soot, the bottom of my microwave grill was charred and the ceiling now had a few black spots, but I could hide most of the damage with a little scrubbing. I had an hour until my husband came home.    

Why was this an issue? Let`s just say my smoke detectors earn their new batteries each year, and my husband likes to remind me of these fiery occurrences. The first incident - or rather incidents-- occurred when my daughter was a baby.  I was nursing, and everything was going along fine until she decided at six months of age that she was not going to nurse anymore.  Yep, no weaning, and this left me and my boobs in sort of a pickle.  Since she was not nursing, I had to constantly pump. To not pump would risk a breast explosion of epic proportions.     

So, I would pump and pour the contents into other containers and then sterilize the pump bottle in boiling water for the next go round. Apparently, I had some kind of mental block with the whole thing because I would always forget about the container that was sterilizing on the stove. It was only the eye-tearing smoke of burning plastic that sent a reminder to my brain that trouble was afoot in the kitchen. One would think that one run in with burning plastic would be enough incentive to remember the boiling breast bump container. Well, one would be wrong.    

The second incident occurred because of love. However, that is not what I told the fire department. This is the one incident when help was sought. I used to think it would be romantic to have scented candles around the bedroom. Come on, all the TV shows have these scenes where hundreds of candles light up the bedroom, and these scenes never end in a huge conflagration that requires a fire department rescue.    

I lit one stupid Yankee candle. Unfortunately in one of my acrobatic moments, my foot went off in a misguided direction and sent the candle flying across the room and onto the rug. Well, after the fire department left (I, of course, lied to them as to how the fire got started, and they, of course did not believe me, and so I had to move), I vowed that no more candles were ever allowed anywhere near the bedroom.      

Now, that I live in another township and the candle industry has come up with wickless candles, I can recant this edict in good conscience and once again have romantic bedroom lighting.  As long as it does not require a fire extinguisher next to the bed, my husband is happy.