☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here ☆
This is the tale of when I set fire to my apartment.
The purikura on the right is totally out of context, but I believe that it shows off my attitude of nope-not-gonna-make-a-mistake-today-nope!
When I say fire, I don’t mean the time that the neighbor’s apartment caught on fire and the fire engines woke me up at 4 am, where I blurrily opened my window and thought that the mist on my face meant that a tsunami was rolling in. I packed up my laptop, iPad, iPhone, and DSLR in a bag (I have priorities), and then opened the window again to check that there was really water rolling in. Only then did I notice the smoke and the hoses and stuff.
Nope, it wasn’t that time. Nobody died this time. And it was my fault. I set fire to the company apartment’s kitchen. Well, you see, I don’t really know what happened…
On this otherwise unremarkable day (February 21, 2004), I felt like cooking some gyoza (chinese dumplings) for breakfast. In Japan, you can buy them premade and prepackaged, and heat them up in the microwave or on the stovetop. My favorite way, as I’d discovered a few days earlier, was to pour a little bit of oil in the frying pan and fry them until they were nice and crispy!
So, I put a small frying pan on the stove like I had done various other times in my adult life. Admittedly, I was only 24, so I had only been an adult for six years, and living on my own for five, so perhaps that wasn’t enough practice. My confidence misguidedly high that I could carry out this simple endeavor, I turned on the burner and then turned away to replace the bag in the nearly-full trash can all of five feet away.
Now, you see where this is going, don’t you? Only 15 seconds had passed, and suddenly I heard a giant, gushing, WHOOSH!!
Yeah, the pan had caught on fire, and there were these high, horrible, scary flames, and it was touching the hood above the range that was there for ventilation and OMGWHATAMIGOINGTODO?!?!
I ran across the room away from the flames like Sansa runs from the vacuum cleaner, but the flames leaped ever higher and I was sure that we were goners! Oh, yeah, we meaning ME and my computer, since my roommates had already left the house for work.
WHATDOIDO?! I can’t just throw it outside!! I thought.
I have long arms, so I shuffled back over, ducked, and reached over to the range to turn the gas burner off. There was that.
Well, you’re not supposed to throw water on a grease fire, so I did the only thing that I could think of– I blew on it. It got bigger. There was now a pillar of FREAKING FLAMES in my house!
Craapppppp.. I did the only thing that I could think of (did we even have a fire extinguisher? We might have, but heck if I knew where it was). I quickly cleared the dirty dishes out of the sink, transferred the pillar-of-fire-in-a-pan into it, flicked on the tap, and ran. It was a good thing that I ran.
The pan erupted in a giant fireball.
But then, it was gone. I checked and double and triple checked the cupboards above the faucet and anything around it to make sure that nothing was secretly smoldering and waiting to actually burn the whole apartment building down. Thankfully, the crisis gods deemed me unworthy of a catastrophe, and I was saved from burning down my NOVA apartment.
It was a while before I tried cooking with oil again. You’d think that I’d have learned, but somehow I have not had a single apartment since then where something similar did not happen to me at least once. Here, in my mother’s house, I have already melted a teapot, set a pan on fire (not as big this time), and caught a dish in the microwave on fire. Oh, and a few days ago, the quinoa that I was cooking in a pan set off the fire alarm. It was billowing smoke, and so I just took it off the burner and let it burn itself out because I was too scared to open the lid and check. It might have been on fire too.
I am a really good cook, though. I swear! Imagine, by the way, how it would have been trying to explain to the fire department in broken Japanese that I burned down the apartment building because I wanted some gyoza for breakfast? Yeeps.
Stay tuned, you guys! I’ll see you all tomorrow. 😉