Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Life as a Canary

Now, I don't usually use this blog for things of a more personal nature, but I wanted to share a little moment of realization with the lot of you.

Apparently, I'm suicidal! Umm, just kidding actually, but I did try to kill myself and my whole family the other day.

We have a gas stove because my husband swears they cook better. Anyway, before you start to wonder why this is relevant, I was cooking dinner the other night, a nice batch of spaghetti with red sauce. As I was serving, I noticed the burner was off. Frankly, dinner is often frantic so I figured I'd turned it off already and went about my business.

Some time later, I went back to the kitchen, boiled water for tea on the other front burner. Sitting down to work at my computer, my throat started tightening up and I started sneezing. My jacket had acquired the pervasive scent of gas. I ignored it for a while, but then went to investigate. Imagine my horror as the smell got stronger the closer I went to the kitchen.

I asked my husband if he could smell it, and he said no. I have a very sensitive nose, but it is tied to memory so I will actually smell things from other times and places. Smelling things that aren't there is not uncommon. However, the gas scent was really strong so I continued past my husband and to the stove.

What I discovered was terrifying. Apparently, I'd had the burner low enough under the sauce that the wind generated while I served dinner had blown the flame out. Without the flame, I'd assumed the burner was off. I'd even lit another burner right next to it.

I'd been lucky I hadn't burned down the house.

Frantic, I ran around turning on fans, ditched my jacket and took my inhalers so I could breathe.

That accomplished, I went back to normal life, had TV time with my hubby and then went to write until the wee hours of the morning. When I finally finished, I went sniffing about, acting the canary as I tried to decide whether to shut off the fans, satisfied disaster had been averted.

This was when I discovered my boys had closed their door before I'd turned the fans on. Their room reeked. I grabbed a flashlight and checked to make sure both were breathing, which they were thank goodness, and turned on their bathroom fan to draw the gas out.

Yipes. I'd almost lost both sons, not to fire but to gas inhalation. Then, I went into my bedroom and discovered the same problem. We keep our door shut as well and the gas had seeped in under the door and collected there. Well, our door swung wide, I checked my husband for signs of life, then spent the night fending off curious kitties who usually aren't allowed in our room with their sharp claws and our vulnerable waterbed.

By morning, things had settled back to normal, but I came away with a real sense of my mortality and how easy it was to risk not just myself but those I love. I also recognized the need to really listen to my body. It gave me warning long before I listened, acting the canary and telling me I couldn't breathe, this place wasn't safe for me or anyone else. My older son had also mentioned the scent to my husband with the same result. Now maybe we'll all be a little more cautious when something isn't right and I hope you all will too. It takes so little time just to check when something feels wrong and so much time to recover if it really is wrong and we ignore it.

I'm grateful that things turned out so well, and yet how easily they might not have. First the gas, then lighting a fire next to the gas leak, then having both husband and children sealed in rooms full of gas. If I didn't know it was my own life, I'd have suspected one of S.L. Viehl's novels had sideswiped me (http://www.sff.net/people/slviehl/index.htp). She says her plotting technique is to put characters in the worst possible place and then make it even nastier. Boy is it scary when life acts that way.

Epilogue: Not a week later, I tried to electrocute myself while installing a new dryer...I think life is telling me to slow down. Hah! Some other month :p.


Anonymous said...


I'm so glad you and your family are ok. I heartily agree with the idea of listening to our bodies as well as our children when they say certain things.

Thanks for sharing. It might help all of us trust ourselves a little more.


S.L. said...

Holy Toledo. I don't think I'd be *that* brutal to one of my protagonists. Seriously, now, very glad you're all okay.


Margaret said...

LOL, Sheila. You literally made me laugh out loud. And I can think of a few of your characters that might disagree, who might even think I got of easy ;).

And thanks both of you for the well wishes. I have NOT tried to kill, maim or otherwise destroy my house, my family or myself for all of at least 4 days, so maybe things are looking up :).

Elleni said...

Wow! I just went through a similar gas scare in my house tonight!

I always do a "door check" downstairs before going to bed and did not notice anything. About 45 minutes later, while trying to fall asleep, I smelled gas upstairs. My mother lives with me. Her bedroom is right next to the kitchen. I quickly ran downstairs and yelled for her to wake up. The smell was stronger in the kitchen! I noticed one of the burner knobs turned a quarter, but it was not lit. Mom said she'd been cleaning the stove, which we rarely use, a few hours earlier! We have just finished airing the place out for an hour. Now, of course, I am too paranoid to go to sleep.

Do you still have your gas stove? I grew up with electric and wanted to replace the gas stove with an electric one when we moved in. That is until the electrician told us we also need a new circuit installed to power it. It might be worth the peace of mind!

Hope you and your family continue to be safe!


Margaret said...

Yipes Elleni,

Something was looking out for you when it got you up to check. My husband believes a gas stove cooks things better and in the olden days ;), it used to be cheaper than electricity. Me, I want one of the solid top electric stoves like my parents have. They don't have nooks and crannies for food to fall into and burn. A swipe of a sponge and everything's dandy :).