Ballad of the sweet potato


I came home last night, baked half a sweet potato, and couldn’t get my oven to turn off.  The knob was definitely in the “off” position, but the broiler flame wouldn’t go out.  I wasn’t even using the broiler.  What are you supposed to do in this situation? I wiggled the knob.  I pulled off the knob, put it back on, and wiggled it again.  Then I thought, maybe the oven just shuts down gradually and needs a few minutes to properly cool down.  Forty minutes, however, is far too long to wait and the apartment was growing awfully warm.  I called my landlord, who wished she still had the instruction booklet for the stove.  She, in turn, called her husband.  I, in turn, sent out a text blitz asking friends and family for their assistance, took off my sweater,  and began opening windows.

The most prompt reply came from my mother, who’s mind went straight to “possible gas leak” and “very dangerous” and told me to call the fire department, so I did.  I’ve never called the fire department before.  It was a strange feeling and something that felt a little over-the-top for my particular situation.  It also seemed like a good idea to get out of the apartment while I waited for my rescue team–it was really hot, after all and my mother had planted visions of Fight Club-style apartment explosions in my head, so, yes, getting out seemed the thing to do.  And I learned something about myself.  I have been asked in the past, “In the event of a fire, what would you save?” and come up with a shopping list of mementos and pets that would have to be hastily gathered upon my exit out the window and carried to our family’s safety meeting point beneath the holly tree across the street–chosen by me at age 8, following the school’s fire safety presentation.  In this instance, with no living creatures to save, I found myself packing a small tote bag.  Its contents were:

  • 1 Laptop computer
  • 1 Phone charger
  • 1 Wallet
  • 1 Wooly hat
  • Game of Thrones, Book 1
  • 1 pair Headphones
  • 1 box Sinus medicine
  • 1 stick Deodorant
  • 1 box Tissues

I suppose it’s different if your apartment is actually on fire, but the computer is the only thing in this list that didn’t come as a surprise.  It seems I’m much more of a practical person than a sentimental one, when you get down to it, which I always suspected but am glad to now know with certainty.

Once my bag was packed I locked up my apartment and I passed my neighbor on my way outside.  I considered warning him that my apartment could potentially blow up at any moment but decided against it.  No use alarming him unnecessarily and unless he immediately left the building, he’d probably get caught in the blast radius anyway.  The air outside was beautifully cool and I could hear distant sirens singing just for me. While waiting for them to arrive, I got a text telling me that there should be a knob behind my stove that can turn off the gas supply, followed by a phone call from the landlord’s husband reiterating this fact.  Now they tell me.  Still, I get very uncomfortable messing with gas in my appliances; I’m too terrified to reignite the pilot light, let alone pull out the stove and start twisting knobs at random.  Better to let the firemen handle it.  Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!  I’m celebrating by being an inept female stereotype, but you know what?  Safety first.

The trucks pulled up–yes, plural–and two firemen followed me upstairs as I explained the situation.  They were very nice about it and even commented on how hot my apartment was.  They proceeded to take gas readings,  wiggle the knobs, pull out the stove, turn off the gas, and unplug it because even without the gas the “electric thermocouple” was staying lit.

And that was that.  All for half a sweet potato.

I now have to wait for a repair person or for the stove to be replaced.  I can live without cooking on the stove for quite a while.  What I’m actually upset about is not being able to boil water.  No boiled water means no coffee.  No coffee means–I don’t even want to think about what that means.  I guess I’m going to Target after work today for an electric kettle.



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