Monday, March 31, 2008

Earth Hour and Quick Reactions

Eventful weekend where lots was accomplished and I almost set fire to the house: more on that in a minute.

We managed to catch up on a bit of ‘Avatar’ over the weekend and now only have one episode left on the DVD I rented from the video store. My 360 is on its way to Microsoft as well, so hopefully I’ll see it again in a few weeks. I also managed to install some nice horizontal blinds in our bedroom with my father’s help, so now we can effectively block sunlight from most rooms. And in observance of Earth Hour which happened on Saturday, I almost set the house on fire. Let me explain...

I opened up my trusty Firefox browser on Saturday morning to check out a few news sites to be greeted with a black Google page. After shutting down Firefox and reopening it a few times, I though that my graphics drivers must be acting up, so I rebooted the system to resolve the issue. After the restart, I’m still greeted by a dark Google page, but notice a little blurb in the lower part of the page that explains why Google blacked out its page in observance of Earth Hour. Ooops, maybe I should’ve looked at the page more carefully before assuming I had a tech issue. Anyway, as I’m sure many of you know by now, on Saturday March 29th people were invited to turn off the lights between eight and nine PM in order to reduce energy consumption (incidentally, it looks like the concept paid off) So, our little family decided to participate in the little event. Between eight and nine o’clock, we turned off all the lights, lit a whole bunch of candles and even started a fire in our fireplace. It was very nice actually and we really enjoyed the soft glow that seemed to permeate the house. A little after nine once David 4.10 was in bed and sleeping, I went around and extinguished all the candles... Or so I thought.

Ten Fifteen rolls around, and my wife and I are about ten minutes into ‘Layer Cake’ (which was a very good movie, by the way). All of a sudden, the fire alarm goes off upstairs, so not wasting a second I run up to see what’s going on. The first things I notice is that there’s smoke coming from the living room: the type of smoke that seems to hug the ceiling and almost create a semi solid cloud of blue-gray. Even before I turn into the living room however, I notice the tell tale orange flicker reflecting from the surrounding walls and once I turn the corner into that common area, I see flames. My heart sank and I can recall the moment with crystal clarity. I yell ‘Fire!’ to my wife who was still downstairs and, without thinking, head directly toward the flaming mass on the floor. Once I get closer, I’m able to see that David’s Thomas the Tank Engine toys are what’s blazing and after opening the front door, I grab what I can and expel them out the front door. I have to do two or three circuits in order to throw the whole flaming mess outside in the snow, and in that very moment I didn’t care in the slightest about grabbing those fire-stricken toys in my bare hand and throwing them outside: only later did I realize that I burnt my hand due to the flames and possibly some acid which leaked out of some batteries. In any case, with the plastic toys outside, I stomp out the small remaining flame with my foot and ensure that nothing else is ablaze. My wife then arrives with the fire extinguisher. I look at her, and tell her that it doesn’t seem like we need that thing any longer, but the gesture is very appreciated. Satisfied by how things look in the living room, I head to the front door and look at the still flaming mess in the snow. I notice the neighbor in front peaking through the window, and honestly they must be wondering as to why we have a small bonfire in front of our house. I was tempted to wave and ask them if they had any marshmallows, but really I just wanted to put the fire out, so I go to the kitchen, fill a pot up with water and dump it on the remains of Thomas and Friends. After scooping some more snow onto the remains of the fire, I can finally be confident that it’s extinguished. Meanwhile, my wife found that a suspended candelabra we have leaked some hot wax onto the toys, sparking the fire. If the was had simply dripped onto the hardwood floor, we would’ve had a puddle of solid wax to clean up in the morning, but no fire. The plastic toys were just in the perfect spot in this case, which is how the blaze started. After the ordeal, I went to check on David to find him soundly asleep in his bed. I therefore noted that he probably wouldn’t be the one leading the family out of the house if the whole thing ever caught fire.

This made me realize a few things: you never know how you’re going to react to harsh and stressful situations until you’re right in the middle of them, and I’m quite happy with my quick reaction. Some part of my brain must have gauged that I was capable of expelling the flaming toys outside and that the situation was not yet out of control, since before I even had any rational thoughts as to what to do, I was already physically moving to eliminate the threat to the house. Also, the now incinerated toys in question were just about a foot away from some cotton drapes, and my thinking is that if an extra 30 seconds or so had gone by before I was able to intervene, those might have caught fire and made the situation that much more serious.

On Sunday, we spent a good chunk of the morning cleaning, since the fire had spread some black soot all across the first floor. So you know those blinds I had just finished installing the day before? Every blade had to be wiped, since some black dust had found it’s way on literally every flat surface on the first floor. Needless to say, our house is now very clean.

No comments: