Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Okay, I know I haven't finished the thread I started Thursday night, and I promise to do so . . . just not today.

It's Saturday, and I have places to go and things to do. Plus I had a hairy experience last night that postponed the blog I'd been working on.

It was about 8:30 PM, and I was taking a break from the computer. I'd gone into my bedroom, spread out on the bed and switched on the bedside lamp. A huge thunderstorm had blown in from the west, and there were tornado warnings everywhere. All local television programming had been pre-empted for news of the storm. Bobbin was locked in the guest bedroom, in time-out for some misdeed, and Dinah was hiding from the storm under my poster bed. I'd left Tribble asleep in my study, stretched out alongside my laptop.

It was cozy lying in a room in a small pool of light with all the thunder and lightning going on outside. I was tucked under the comforter, happy as a butterfly safe in her cocoon. I was midway through a book I was enjoying (White Nights by Jim Butcher). Short of hot and cold running men, what more could a girl want? I drifted off to into a contented sleep.

Somewhere in my dreams, I distinctly heard a loud popping sound, but since it wasn't a threatening noise, I didn't rouse.

The first thing I remember is Tribble dancing along my chest, trilling at me to wake up. This was so unusual that I snapped awake, thinking I had a burglar. Instead I smelled burning.

I leaped out of bed and went running for the front of the house, thinking I must have left something on the stove. While I was still trying to decide whether to look for the fire or the fire extinguisher first, my sleep-fogged brain cleared, and I realized there wasn't anything on the stove cooking. Also, I could tell the burning smell was decreasing the farther I went from the bedroom. I swung around and ran back into the bedroom.

Nothing looked out of place except Tribble who was standing on my pillow staring at the table lamp on my nightstand. I approached the lamp and ducked my head to look under the shade.

The black hard plastic light switch that operates the three-way lamp was bent parallel to the lampstand. I realized it had MELTED.

Checking the impulse to feel the lamp, I bent over instead and touched the wall above the wall socket. It was cool to the touch. I touched the plastic part of the socket. It was cool, too. I grabbed the lamp's cord and yanked it out of the wall.

Once the lamp was unplugged, I reached up to touch the metal socket on the lamp where the light bulb screws in and burned my fingers. The freaking lamp was on fire from the inside.

Now I need to tell you that I slept or joked through most of my science classes in school. I roused for genetics, ecology and zoology, but physical science and chemistry bored me to tears. The result of this spotty education was that I wasn't sure what had caused the fire, or whether there was still any danger.

The ceramic base of the lamp was still cool, so I picked it up and carried it out to my patio.

When I returned, my bedroom smelled awful, with that terrible, frighteningly acrid, burnt odor. I couldn't tell if there was a fire inside my house walls, but I had an ugly memory to scare me. About five years ago, a neighbor on my block who'd done his own electrical remodeling woke up to a fire inside his walls. He caught it before it spread too far, but the firemen hacked two of his walls to bits with axes in order to put the blaze out.

My bedroom walls still felt cool to the touch. Could lightning have done this? I phoned a neighbor to ask if he'd heard a lightning strike. He said it was more likely that my lamp had a short in it. He told me a story of a friend whose house burned down from a short in a ceiling fan. I have no doubt he was trying to comfort me, but I gotta say, it didn't work.

I was too wired (no pun) to write or go to bed. I spent the next three hours talking to family and friends and making a fuss over Tribble, who may have saved my life and my house.

It was a friend who reminded me that Bobbin had awakened me last spring with another disaster. I checked my blogs (as good as a diary) and realized that on Wednesday, April 19, 2006, Bobbin had awakened me when my water heater broke during another thunderstorm, and my house flooded.

Watchcats. What a concept. I wonder if they have a division of labor: Bobbin watches water, Tribble fields fire, maybe Dinah busts burglars.

I'll tell you one thing: I'm going to be damn careful in the two weeks immediately following my birthday next year.


Marie Tuhart said...


I'm glad you and the cats are safe. I saw the news this morning about all the storms in Texas as was worried about you. It was probably a short in the lamp, or a power surge that caused the short.

Hope things are better for you today.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks, Marie.

I'm pretty cool in most crises, but I really, really, seriously don't like fire. I had a housefire in my first apartment, which I accidentally set myself. I was able to put it out, but I've never forgotten the sheer terror of watching it spread from frying pan to pot holder to carpet.

David said...

I love thunderstorms - sleep like a baby through them, but high wind scares me. You'd think that after growing up in South Florida this wouldn't be an issue, bit it is, and the same system that seems to have melted your lamp will hit us tomorrow - Sunday. We're expecting rain or possibly a couple of inches of slush in our area - and there is the threat of a high wind advisory.

I used to have a cat named Tribble. He was a psychotic tuxedo cat. Everywhere I've lived since I had to give him away, I've seen a tuxedo cat stalking me - even when I lived in Europe.

When I first got the little guy, I was a Klingon for Paramount Digital Entertainment. Everyone got a chuckle out of the idea of a Klingon with a pet cat named Tribble.

Maya Reynolds said...

David: My Tribble is a calico Manx--which means she doesn't have a tail. When she was a kitten, she was just a round little ball of fur. It was hard to tell which end was which. Tribble was the perfect name.

Now that she's well over twenty, she's much leaner and more square looking.

I'm still astounded she came into my bedroom to waken me. She usually confines herself to my study and the adjoining bathroom where her litter box is. She's a little afraid of Dinah and Bobbin, who have clearly established their separate territories in my bedroom. Bobbin controls the nightstand and my headboard. Dinah controls the kidney-shaped vanity and the seat on my stationary bike.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Wow, scary stuff, Maya. Glad to know you're okay.

I had a similar thing happen in my old house, only it was a ceiling light fixture in my daughter's bedroom. One day one of the bulbs popped and the whole light fixture came crashing down. Luckily she wasn't on her bed at the time. I spent the rest of the day feeling the ceiling and the walls.

Good Tribble. Extra kitty treats for her. =o)

Maya Reynolds said...

B.E.: Scary is right. I'm very good about not leaving appliances on when I leave the house, but I've never worried about light fixtures before. I need to rethink that strategy.



Shelley Munro said...

Wow, that sounds scary. Tribble needs a special treat for a job well done.

Laura Vivanco said...

Watchcats. What a concept. I wonder if they have a division of labor: Bobbin watches water, Tribble fields fire, maybe Dinah busts burglars.

If they're guarding you against the 'four elements' Dinah would have to watch air, so maybe she's the tornado/hurricane watchcat? I suspect 'earth' might be fairly inert, usually. Or do you get earthquakes where you are? In that case maybe you need four cats ;-) They're beginning to sound magicial, but I suppose that's not surprising, seeing as they're cats.

I'm very glad Tribble kept you safe.

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Shelley: It's good to hear from you!! Apparently Tribble decided if no one else was going to respond, she would. She's returned to her post beside my laptop where she butts my hand when she wants a head rub.

Maya Reynolds said...

Laura: No earthquakes, but tornadoes are fairly common. There were four spotted Friday night in this area, and they did enormous amounts of damage in Haltom City.

David Roth said...

I was looking at a litter of kittens, all of whom but one tried hiding under their mother. This one little furball just sat there looking defiantly at me, as if daring me to pick him up. I did, and looked at him and asked, "Now - what's your story, little one?"

He took a swipe at my nose, leaving behind four tiny wee little marks. I had to take him home with me.

My current kitty, Ms. Skittle is a rescue baby, although it's yet to be determined exactly who rescued whom.