Bookended With Good Things (or, Why I Will NEVER, EVER do THAT again)

I’m looking forward to posting about our Frankfurt expedition, and had planned to go through the photographs for that yesterday. Instead, I… well… didn’t. I should also say that when reading this, there is going to come a time when you just KNOW what is going to happen, but I encourage you to read to the end. It does have a happy ending. Sort of. At least you know up front that I lived to tell the tale…

Yesterday’s story actually began last week, with the laundry orientation. While definitely more complicated than doing the laundry in the US, it really didn’t seem all that complicated. The problem is that the orientation was predicated on the idea that the equipment we have for doing our laundry actually works. In any case, it was called to my attention during said laundry orientation that doing laundry here is more of an ordeal than I am used to. (and she wasn’t referring to the fact that there are 4 flights of stairs and a long, dark, and scary hallway in between me and the laundry room.)

After hearing SO MANY stories from our group (including the men) about the travails of doing the laundry, I procrastinated. I procrastinated until there was no option, in fact. I had to do the laundry. I went down there, popped 2 loads in, set my alarm for 49 minutes (what the machine said it was going to need to clean my clothes), and headed back up the 4 flights of stairs. 49 minutes later, I jog down the stairs to find that one of the machines has paused mid-wash, and I restarted it. The other load was ready to go into the dryer. So… I moved it to the dryer, and decided that I would use the remaining minutes on the token machine to do some more laundry. Back up 4 flights of stairs, grab some more stuff, back down 4 flights of stairs, and into the machine. But I forgot the soap. Back up. Back down. Check the machine that went into pause mode. Worry about that for a minute. Decide that the laundry room is really creepy and go back up. 15 minutes later, back down. The stupid machine is paused again. And the dryer doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Change the settings. Wait, worry, oh forget it, I’m going back up stairs. I’m thirsty. 30 minutes later, back down. The 3rd load machine says that its done. I open the door. Out floods a bunch of water. WHAT?!? Change the settings. Back up the stairs to get towels to clean it up. Back down the stairs to actually clean it up. The second load isn’t paused! Yay! Now it’s a race between the token machine and the spin cycle! Who will win?!? Who will win?!?! Back up. Back down. Both washing loads are done. Hooray! I check the clothes in the dryer. Not much progress. Insert 2 more Euro. Decide to wait to see how that works before I start anything else drying. And for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to do 1 more load of laundry. Back up the stairs, gather the dirties, back down. Load it up, turn it on, good to go. Back up. Back down. Check the washing (hooray for success), check the dryer (boo; no results at all). One more time: insert 2 more Euro, back up the stairs. Back down the stairs. Washing done. Drying, not so much. It then takes me 4 more trips up and down the stairs to gather all the wet clothes back into our apartment. WHERE WE HAVE NO DRYING RACK! Clothes were hanging from the windows, the curtain rods, the chairs, the ironing board, the cabinet pulls, the cabinets, the door knobs, literally everywhere.

As you might imagine, not everything got incredibly dry. Including our sheets. So, when Mike noticed after dinner that one of the burners on our stove was still quite warm, he bundled one of the sheets up and put it on top, hoping that the heat would help dry them enough to at least not freeze us out at bed time. Although this terrified me, it really worked quite beautifully. So we went to bed, at least somewhat warm, in our newly re-decorated-with-laundry apartment. πŸ™‚

Pot of gold waiting at the castle!

Tuesday morning, we saw the most beautiful rainbow! Hooray! Happy Tuesday! EXCEPT THAT IT WAS NOT MEANT TO BE. We had no hot water. We had noticed on Monday that we couldn’t get the water warmer than almost lukewarm (it had been burn-the-hide-right-off-of-you-hot). Now, the settings were freezing and ice cold. One of the other women had invited me to go to the gym with her, which seemed like a good idea, because I really felt like running, I have a 2-week free pass that is soon-to-expire, and we had NO HOT WATER. A warm shower at the gym sounded awesome! (Even though I’m not usually a shower-at-the-gym kind of person, warm is warm!)

>>> ENTER PROBLEM: the towels were still wet. 😦 <<<<<<<

But then I remembered the clever trick that had worked so well on the sheets: the burner on the stove. [This is where you should start to get a sinking feeling in your tummy…] So, I put my (stiff and hard from hanging off a cabinet pull) towel on the burner, turned it on low, and waited for my friend (while occasionally flipping the towel over and about and re-folding it). And my friend arrived, and we were off. WITH THE TOWEL STILL ON THE BURNER.

Yep… you saw it coming. But wait, there’s more!

I had a great run – almost 40 minutes, and it was fun and I was happy! You know how it is when you are looking forward to that hot water relaxing your muscles after a decent workout? After doing my foam roller exercisesΒ (which really are the bomb), we headed back to the locker room. My friend pulled out her towel, and that was the exact moment that my terror struck. My towel. Still sitting on the burner. AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

Please, Lord, don’t let me have burned down the whole building. Just the towel, please let it be just the towel….

“I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.” (this was the scene and caption in my brain right then.)

As my words, trying to explain what was going on in my head, sunk in to my friend, the look of sheer panic on her face will forever be etched in my brain. We were out of there (which really isn’t as straightforward as it sounds) in no time! To the parking deck… The elevator was super slow, so we booked it up 6 more flights of stairs (still faster than the elevator). And then we caught every, single red light on the way home. I was looking out the window the whole time, just sure I was going to see a big cloud of smoke on the horizon (the gym is a 10 minute drive from our building).

When we turned on our street, there were men bustling about in safety-orange jump suits – our hearts sank. Just street sweepers! We stopped in front of the building (still intact) and as my friend slammed on the breaks, she yelled, “JUST RUN! I’ll park… JUST RUN!!” I was off. Up that same 4 flights of stairs that I took so many times on Monday. The smell of smoke was profound as I approached the 1st floor up from the ground. When I got to our apartment, I checked the door – not hot, and tried to get the key in the door, but my hands were shaking so bad, just getting that done was a challenge. I came inside, facing a wall of smoke – and quickly turned the burner off (no flames). There was nothing left of the towel. Just some carbon threads. I didn’t take a picture because I was completely unable to do anything for a second. And by the time I thought to record the evidence, my lovely friend and neighbor (who was no doubt scared that all of her possessions in this time zone were about to be toast), quickly swept the ashes off my stove.

Windows wide open, door open, not even 60 degrees for the high temperature. Clothes all over the apartment, just to soak up the smell of smoke. (Don’t even ask if I’m going to redo all the laundry. It is NOT going to happen.) UGH! I know… really, really stupid. Not to mention dangerous. And really stupid. Don’t worry, I will NEVER, EVER do that again. EVER. I won’t even think about it, no matter how wet my towels are or how cold my sheets are. It is never going to happen again.

Right away, I knew that this was something that wasn’t going to go away in a hurry, so I went ahead and told Mike and my mother. I felt so relieved that it didn’t hurt anyone else’s apartment and so STUPID for doing it to begin with, I literally just sank to the floor for a while. And then I got cold… so I went and sat at my friend’s house for a while. And then I felt guilty so I folded all the clothes, put them away, dusted, sprayed Febreeze within an inch of my life, started burning (I know…) my pumpkin spice, and made dinner plans. I still felt bad.

Of course, it was right about then that the janitor delivered our drying rack. He called to say that he was on his way, and I was terrified that I would get in trouble so I tried to meet him in the stair well. The look on his face as he sniffed around… well, let’s just say that he was speechless! I was all danke shun this and bitte shun that (they say thank you very much and please a lot, with no particular order, so I just figured I’d throw it all out there and hope for the best) and turned and ran away. Back to my very stinky, very cold apartment.

I’d emailed Mike (he left his German phone at home), but he didn’t get the email. His face, upon entering the apartment, and his tone asking “WHAT is that smell? What happened here?” OH MAN… “Uh, you didn’t get the email?” Fortunately, he is able to appreciate that I am much better at yelling at myself than I need to be, so with a hug (and a decision to move one of the candles that in light of the circumstances was making him nervous), he just sat about making hot water for me to warm up with (it was seriously cold, even with coats and what not on).

I was exhausted, but we still had more stick shift driving to learn/practice. Mike drove us WAAAAAAYYYY out of town (traffic makes me nervous, especially having cars behind me), and then I DROVE! Around traffic circles and across bridges and up and down hills, all the way from 1st gear to 5th gear! Happy ending. Bad day. Here it is, mid-day the day after, and it still stinks to high heaven. I’m definitely living with my mistake… At least I have an apartment to stink up. πŸ™‚

It was a bad day: not only did I burn up a towel with sheer thoughtlessness, I risked a lot of other people’s towels (which is much worse to me). All of that feeling just plain wore me out. However, I am glad that if I am going to have a really bad day, it is because of something I did, which I will never, ever do again. Too often, bad days feel like there is nothing I can do about them, but yesterday was quite a contrast to that. I was fully in charge. Locus of control=me. However, I am also fully and completely and 100% blown away that in spite of my stupidity, the building didn’t burn down. I know that God was looking out for me there… No question. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy, but God was ready to save me from that, too. Whew! Let us all say “Amen.”

The theme song for me and my burner… (it’s a slightly annoying song (although I do generally enjoy Taylor Swift for reasons I can not articulate well), but it was on my mind the whole time I was writing this post):

6 thoughts on “Bookended With Good Things (or, Why I Will NEVER, EVER do THAT again)

  1. Oh my. Well, the good news here is that you’ve made a terrible mistake and yet nothing was harmed. Besides the towel (and the lingering aroma in the clean clothes), I guess. Everyone makes a mistake like that at some point, and with all the things getting lost in translation in this transition, this was a fairly harmless one. Praying Pumpkin Spice takes care of the aroma soon so that all can be forgotten sooner than later. Love you!!!

    • And this is one example of why I love you. Thank you for this comment! πŸ™‚ I had the door open a little while ago, trying to continue the ventilation (I think it still reeks in here), but the pumpkin spice was going. My neighbor poked her head in and said that she liked it when I had my door open because everytime she walked by, it smelled like home. πŸ™‚ I guess it smells worse to me at this point than it does to others, but I really loved it that she said that it smelled like home – she only smelled pumpkin spice! πŸ™‚

  2. I have multiple times almost burned down the house due to burner-related incidents. Maybe a short story would make you feel better:

    I was warming oil on the burner to make tasty, tasty fried food such as egg rolls and chicken tempura and the like. For some reason, I turned the burner on high, not realizing that it should be lower to warm the oil or that it should be turned down after sufficient warming has occurred. Regardless, the oil in the pan suddenly caught fire, orange and red flames flickering against the (thank goodness!!) ceramic wall. Frozen with fear and panic, I stared at it, trying to decide on a course of action. Can water be thrown on oil? What about the saying about not mixing oil and water? Can those intense flames be muffled with a towel? (visions of the towel bursting into flames plague my mind until I decide that I would likely accelerate burning down of the house if I tried that course of action)

    Tentatively, I called out. “Um, Chris?”

    She calls back from the office (on the far side of the house from the kitchen, if you recall). “What?”

    “Can you come here, please?” Still just a friendly beckon. For some reason, the panic did not transfer to the conversation. Perhaps the hypnotic glow of the ever-growing flames?

    “What do you need?” She wasn’t moving without a good reason, apparently.

    “I need your help for a second.” I wait a short beat. “I’ve caught something on fire.”

    Luckily Christine came quickly and thought even quicker, putting another pan on top of the flames and thus depriving the fire of oxygen. I was later chastised for not prioritizing information. I was instructed to next time lead with: “Chris! There are massive flames in the kitchen! Help me put out the fire!”

    I only thank the powers that be that the wall was ceramic tile. So it only bore smoke marks rather than having burned or being charred. And that was only one situation…

    So you’re not the only one!! I’m so thankful that it all turned out well (relatively, at least). There was definitely Someone looking out for you. Sorry for the long response! Hope you’re having a better day!!

    • It really is true that misery (in all its forms) loves company (whether in the present tense or just knowing that other people have been there)… Thank you so much for telling me that. I know that it was a mistake, but it really felt like I was just about the stupidest person in the whole world. Knowing that you almost set your house on fire (and I sure am glad you had a ceramic tile wall!!), even if you didn’t just leave it there, does make me feel better. Thanks for sharing! ~love you!

  3. I am so glad that things did not play out in that ultimate nightmare sort of way. Love and miss you!! I love reading the blog though!

    • You and me both! (and I’m sure all of the people who smelled the smell but couldn’t figure out what was going on would be really glad of that too, if they knew how lucky they were, too; instead they are probably just annoyed that their apartments smelled bad for a while!) Love and miss you, too, but I am really glad to see your name pop up on here! πŸ™‚ Hi! Please give Molly a hug for me!

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