For months, my family has gathered at my parent’s house on Sundays to enjoy the pool, grill some form of delicious deceased animal and relax. I thought it would be nice to return the favor and have them out to my apartment near downtown
There were five immediate problems with this that should have alerted me that there was a 70/30 chance that this might end in disaster. Let’s review them.
1) I don’t have a barbecue grill.
2) Most of them weren’t going to be able to make it.
3) I live furthest away, and because they inexplicably love me, my mom, sister and brother had to drive out to me.
4) Horrible storms called by the wrathful hands of Zeus himself were predicted for that day. (So not only did they have to drive out to me, they had to drive out to me in torrential rain.)
5) I know how to cook. Not. (Did I just revive ‘Not’? You bet your sweet ass I did.)
Did any of those warning signs stop me? Did I see any of them as a roadblock that couldn’t be crossed? Was there, at any time, even a second when I thought ‘Gee, Jen. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea’? No, no! A thousand times no! I suffer from something that’s clinically referred to as either ‘incurable optimism’ or ‘you are the biggest idiot alive’ disease, depending on which doctor you’re visiting. It really all depends on your insurance.
So the day before everyone came out, I made a trip to the grocery store. Remember how I said that I know how to cook-not? That means that a trip to the grocery store for more than a frozen pizza or some other type of food I can put into the microwave is a lot like showing up at a port, getting on a random boat, sailing to a different country, getting to that country and realizing that not only does no one speak English, but each person has made up their own language, they are all talking at the same time, and half of them are screaming at you. (Seriously Whole Foods. You’re not as cool as you think you are. Please stop trying to force me to buy chickpeas in bulk and get your bearded employees away from me. Your aisles are very scary and I can’t find anything.)
I managed to navigate my way through the store without a yak and a Sherpa (don’t act like you don’t have them, Whole Foods) and came home with enough ingredients to make hamburgers and potato salad for, rough estimation, fourteen John Goodman’s. (I panicked. I have absolutely no idea how to make a normal quantity of food. I’m either confused as to why two hotdogs didn’t feed sixteen people or irritated that eleven pounds of mashed potatoes is far too much for a dinner for two. I’m not a mathematician. Or a chef. Sue me.)
The next day, everything seemed to be going smoothly. My mom was over, my sister had just gotten there and my brother was on his way. I put the hamburgers in the oven (which is also a broiler, because, remember, I have no grill and it was raining. Also because I live in a ritzy apartment where they combine the oven and broiler. Classy.). The first set was perfect and I beamed over my culinary prowess. Had anyone ever made hamburgers as exceptional as these? Nope. (Probably.) This is when things started to go awry.
I got so caught up in beaming, I didn’t think about changing out the greasy foil for new foil, considering I was about to put greasy foil directly under an open flame. Whatever. People make mistakes all the time. Google it.
A side note and something that’s going to be very important in a second: I have no sense of smell. I don’t want to talk about it, just trust me. It’s because I have no sense of smell that I have left gas burners on and hung out in a room with a chlorine leak. It’s also because I have no sense of smell that I have candles burning all the time when I have people over. How do I know if my apartment smells like tuna steaks that were left in the back of the drawer in the fridge for three months because I forgot they were there and my brother had to tell me that he thought something died in my kitchen? (This is hypothetical) So on this day, a candle was burning on the stove.
About five minutes after I put the second set of burgers in the oven, I noticed that the room was hazy. My mom said, ‘it smells like something’s burning’ and I looked over at the stove.
From each of the burners billowed a gray-black pillar of smoke, like a horrible pantheon in Hell where they made burgers all day.
I opened the oven and my sister said, very calmly (much more calmly than my shark situation) “There’s a fire”.
I’ll interrupt here to tell you that my sister is very, very experienced with setting things on fire. Ask her how long it takes to burn hard boiled eggs. My point is, when she says something’s on fire, it’s probably on fire.
No sooner had she alerted me, when fire ERUPTED OUT OF THE OVEN LIKE MOUNT VESUVIUS OVER POMPEII. If I stood there a second longer, you’d be visiting me 100 years from now in a travelling museum exhibit forever frozen in whatever horrific pose I struck seconds before I was petrified in burger grease and flames. I turned around to grab my fire extinguisher and left the oven door open. Why? Because I DON’T REGULARLY SET THINGS ON FIRE AND I PANICKED. DON’T JUDGE ME.
Amidst the fiery hell flames licking at my face as I fumbled for the fire extinguisher pin, my mom said, very calmly, “Jen, shut the door”. Apparently she’s had experience with setting houses on fire.
Here’s the thing. When you’re about to be set on fire, you don’t do anything calmly. You just make moves. Sometimes those moves are far too spirited. “Shutting the door” quickly and easily transitioned into “slamming the oven door shut with the exact same amount of force it took Dolph Lundgren to break Skeletor’s staff and send him into the pit of pink lava at the end of the He-Man movie”.
This started a chain reaction. The slamming oven door rocked the oven, which knocked over my bamboo salt and pepper shakers, which knocked over my frog-head pot holders (jealous?), which bumped into the candle burning on the oven, which sent the candle toppling over, on FIRE, onto the stove, which was already on fire. Wax (which I assume was grapefruit scented) went spilling all over the stove. I tried to beat the shit out of the burning candle with a towel in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other. Guess what doesn’t put out fires. Hopping up and down and waving a towel and fire extinguisher at a fire.
My sister somehow got the stove fire out ( I must have lost time because I have no idea how she did it) while my mother, with presence of mind, instructed me to turn off the broiler. In the end, the burgers weren’t even burned.
Moral of this story? I will do absolutely anything someone tells me to do if my apartment is on fire. But I will do it with the exact same amount of strength as He-Man.