Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The amazing flaming oven II

Last January I posted part one to this saga. If you read the original post you'll see that I promised to put up part two a couple days after the first part. So, here we are ten months later and a couple days have finally come to pass.

For several years the ski slope has hosted an event for local skiers called Monday Night Race League.

Businesses sponsor teams and each Monday for six weeks the teams go and race. It's all in good fun and everyone has a grand time hassling each other about who is getting better results week to week.

Andy's company participates in the league and so a lot of the employees race for them.

One Monday last season a couple of our friends were having a hard time finding someone to watch their kids that night and they were going to have to bring them to the mountain to watch the races. Both parents participate in race league and their regular babysitter had canceled at the last minute.

Since I don't ski, I don't participate in the race league and I don't go to cheer people on because you have to purchase a lift ticket to do so. $50 each week to watch people race down a hill is not in our budget. This leaves me alone on Mondays so I volunteered to come stay with the kids while their parents raced. It was company for me and they were guaranteed to have more fun at home than stuck in the ski lodge. Little did we know how much fun they'd have.

So that evening around six I went over to their house. This was the first time I had met either of the girls. Their dad had talked about them a lot and I'd seen them, but we hadn't spent time together. Their parents took the time to tell them how mean I was and how I would string them up by their toes if they did anything wrong. They took their parents threats so seriously that the youngest, B, who is 5, said, "You're not really mean are you?" shortly after her parents left.

Nine year old M has a take charge sort of personality and proceeded to fill me in on how their household worked. Then she decided that she wanted something to eat and had me make her a bowl of soup and some hot tea. Neither of which she ate. It had been snowing pretty heavily for a couple days and this was their second or third day home from school. They'd been snacking on and off all day because what else is there to do after you've been stuck inside for three days?

Their mom promised them that they could make cookies with me that night. They had a pack of premade break-away cookies in the fridge. I tried to coax B into eating something nutritious, but she was ready to bake the cookies. So I got out the pan and turned on the oven.

You should know that they had just finished remodeling their house. As in, hadn't even started paying the new mortgage yet. They had a whole new kitchen and living room with crazy tall ceilings. They installed two ovens in the kitchen. The top oven was a convection oven that also had a regular electric function.

The girls told me they had only used the top oven so far and I should use that one, so I did. While I understand the concept of a convection oven I don't have any experience using one and it would be a serious let down to burn the cookies so I just turned on the electric oven function. While the oven was preheating M and I rummaged around the kitchen for things to decorate the cookies with and B arranged the cookies on the pan. She ate one of the dough balls while I was watching and I'm pretty sure she sneaked another behind my back.

We were about ready to put the cookies in to bake when I hear "Oh my gosh!" from M. I looked up and her eyes and mouth were wide open while her finger was pointing behind me. I look back and there was smoke coming out of the oven. Curious.

It wasn't a lot of smoke. I thought maybe they'd just had a little grease spill that was burning off. So I opened the oven door to see what was amiss. The oven had a pan that completely covered the heating element. That was something I'd never seen before and I guess it's a new thing in ovens to help protect the bottom. The smoke was coming from underneath the pan but I couldn't get it to lift up so I could see. I'm still not terribly worried because all I see is smoke. I wanted to give it a minute to see if the smoking stopped before we did anything else. But wait! Did I just see a flame come up from underneath the pan? Uh oh! Definitely a flame.

Neither of the girls saw the flames, but they were both trying to see into the oven. Immediately I turned off the power and asked M if she knew where the baking soda was. She did and it took her a few minutes to find it. The flames were becoming more and more frequent. Not good. While M is looking for the baking soda B has pulled over a step stool so she can get a good look inside. She isn't upset, just curious, but it's all I can do to get her to back up so she doesn't burn herself on the open oven door.

M finds the baking soda and runs back into the kitchen (it was in the laundry room) to give it to me. They must shop at Sam's club because it was the biggest box of baking soda I have ever seen. As soon as she gets to me she sees a flame in the back of the oven. This is when I realize that M is not so good in a crisis situation. B is still fine which I think was because she was taking her cues from me. I wasn't panicked so neither was she. Her sister was a completely different story. M is in full on freak out mode. I told her it would be fine we'd just put some baking soda on the fire and it would go away. My reassurances didn't help much.

But at this point the small amount of smoke has multiplied and begun billowing out of the oven filling the kitchen and living area with the crazy tall ceilings.

Another problem. The protective, and immobile, pan along with the giant box of baking soda is making it difficult for me to get anything down to where the fire is. In an effort to try to calm M down and give her a task I told her to call here parents and see if they knew how to take the pan out of the oven. I didn't want to worry them, but clearly the fire wasn't spreading and I did need to put it out. So she called. Neither of them knew, but told me to call them back if I couldn't get the fire out.

A couple minutes later and I still can't get the baking soda to the oven. The smoke is multiplying, B is still on the step stool watching me, and M is having a complete atomic meltdown. I'm going to have to scrape her off the floor when this is all over.

Their dad calls us back and says, "Just pour some damn water down there!" I ask if he's sure because all my instincts cringe away from pouring water onto what could be an electrical fire. Not only do I not want to destroy their new house, I also don't want to die over a small oven fire. He promised that as long as the oven was off we were safe, but I still made him stay on the phone with me while I did the deed. Fire extinguished!

We hung up the phone, but the excitement wasn't over. M stopped panicking about the fire, but then realized that the house was full of smoke and proceeded to freak out about that. I told her to calm down and help me open the windows. I asked them if they had any rotary fans and they did. M got a tall fan out of one of the bedrooms and we put it in the kitchen to help pull some of the smoke out of the rest of the house.

M is gagging and choking while we open all the doors and windows. Did I mention it was snowing? And that it was about 10 degrees out?

About half way through our task it occurs to me that one of the girls might have asthma and this smoke is not good. Since B didn't seem bothered by the smoke and M was the one gagging I asked her if she had asthma. I can't begin to describe the different emotions that crossed her face in five seconds time. She was already upset about the fire and the smoke in her house and after I asked her that she self diagnosed herself and clearly thought she was going to die at any moment. She started scratching and grabbing at her throat and in her froggiest voice said, "Oh my gosh! I don't know! Do you think I have asthma? I think I do! I have asthma!"

This whole time, while M and I are opening windows, B has planted herself behind the rotary fan and is singing into it at the top of her lungs. Clearly she didn't have asthma. I didn't know the song at all, but they told me later it was something from High School Musical. Except B couldn't remember anything except the chorus so for about 10 minutes I'd heard the same three lines over and over again as sung from a five year old behind a rotary fan.

All this for some dang sugar cookies.

I turned around so M couldn't see me stifle a laugh and told her that she was going to be fine and just to help me finish opening the windows.

It didn't take long for the smoke to go out and M calmed herself right back down. B finally stopped singing and we all decided to give up on the cookies and eat oreo's instead.

The rest of the night passed without incident. When their parents got home they told me they hadn't used the electrical feature on the oven before that. So I guess I broke it in for them.

The next day their dad told me that after I left M said, "Dad! You lied to us! She wasn't mean at all! She was cool!"

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