Lost In Space, Or, Almost A Fire

Argh.  All I wanted was to heat up enough water in the electric kettle so I could dump it into the little pot on the two-burner hot plate, so that it wouldn’t take, like, three hours to heat up enough so I could make some instant soup.  That’s all.

But instead, I was thinking.  I think a lot.  Too much, sometimes.

I was out somewhere out in Thinking-Land, and I had the electric hot plate burner–the burner that works–the other one gets vaguely warm, but you can’t actually cook on it–anyway, I had the burner that actually gets hot, heated up to maximum, so that when I got the water boiled in the kettle I could just pour it in the little pot and away we would go with the soup.


Instead of that happening, what happened instead was that I set the electric kettle down on the hot burner, instead of the soup pot.

It could have been worse, I mean, I have in the past set my HAND down on the hot burner, which is not a good thing at all.

As it happens, this particular electric kettle, which I have never liked and have kind of wanted to get rid of, but since it worked I would not–this kettle is made of stainless steel that got hot to the touch, with a plastic base.

So when I set the kettle down on the hot burner, the whole bottom melted, and since I was still deep in thought, I did not notice this until the whole damn bottom of the kettle was pouring off of the hot plate!  I wish I had been able to take a picture, it looked so bizarre.  However, my main desire at that moment was to avoid the whole thing bursting into flames, so I removed the remains of the kettle and set it on a handy piece of tin foil that happened to be lying around.  I set this on the floor while I turned my attention to the hot plate.  Later I regretted this a bit, as I was pulling the sheets of bubbled-up floor paint off the wood underneath.

Fortunately, the molten plastic had dripped off the burner and was easily removed from the  sides of the hot plate.   Thank God it didn’t stick, or I would have lost the hot plate as well as the kettle.

The process of dripping produced amusing plastic stringy-things.  I threw everything I could get off into the garbage bin and shut off the power to the hot plate.

Then I turned my attention to the clouds of poisonous fumes that had filled the building.  Fortunately it is all the way up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so I opened all the doors and set up a box fan to blow the fumes out the back door.  This worked admirably.

At this moment I stopped thinking for a second or two, in order to think about why the fire extinguisher had not entered my mind during this melting-plastic mitigation process.  Really, even though the fire extinguisher is always ready to hand in my kitchen (or what passes for a kitchen in my current dwelling), it is scandalous and also dangerous that the image of a fire extinguisher never showed up among all the other images flying through my mind.  I will have to do more fire drills!

To my credit, I did have a plan in place in case the melted plastic on the burner burst into flames–a giant pot lid, left lying around after cooking my Shabbat meal, ready to smother any flames that might have shot out.  That would not have helped if, say, the wooden cupboard that holds my hotplate were to have burst into flames.  That would have been the time to remember about the fire extinguisher.  Happily, I did not have to kick myself in retrospect as I watched the building burning down–heaven forbid–saying to myself, why in the holy hell did you not remember the THREE fire extinguishers–one, two, THREE–you have lying around in the place, each one strategically positioned in places where there are fire hazards?

Well, so be it.  I was saved from disaster only by the fact that the plastic used on the kettle had a higher flashpoint than the heat of my hotplate.  After everything cooled down, I inspected the bottom of my kettle, and passed a few happy moments inspecting its innards.  You would not believe how simple these things are.  Really, I think if I did a bit of re-engineering, I could revive this kettle and have it boiling away quite cheerfully again.  But I think I won’t.  I have other things to tinker with, and the kettle would end up in the pile of  “things to fix when I get a chance,” and I never get a chance, because I am thinking of other things.

You will be pleased to know that my hotplate emerged slightly smelling of plastic but otherwise unscathed.  I wiped the remains of the plastic off and turned the hotplate back on “high” to burn off any renegade plastic molecules.  It did smoke a bit, and then subsided.  So at least I don’t have to go out and buy another of THOSE.

Once the building was cleared of plastic fumes, I followed up with billowing clouds of frankincense and myrrh, so that my clothing and bed hangings will smell of incense rather than burning plastic.  I have a collection of precious incense resins, most of which I procured in the Middle East, some of which I collected myself in various resin-producing forest places, and some that I’ve obtained through trading with other resin aficionados.

It’s a bit more of a chore to fire up a few resin nuggets than it is to light a stick of incense, which might be a factor in the development of incense sticks.  You have to have the proper equipment, etc., which I will not go into, except to say that the process involves special charcoal (I have done it with “normal” charcoal but that is a pain), a butane torch, time, and nuggets of whatever resin you are burning.

I totally filled the building with frankincense and myrrh smoke, causing the dog to seek refuge under the table, and me to stand outside on the deck until the incense smoke had risen into the rafters;  then I came in and sat down to write this.  Afterwards, I will go out to the nearest source of small appliances and procure another electric kettle.  That is how I cook anything that requires hot water, since the hot plate doesn’t get hot enough.

Perhaps that’s a good thing, after all.

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  1. well, they say we should have more excitement in our lives, but really, i don’t think they meant trying to burn our house down! glad you are ok, and the hotplate too. maybe this was your unthought plan on how to get a new electric kettle?

    • Well, I went to Wal-Mart and all they had was tiny kettles, kettles that were too big, and kettles that were too heavy…So I ended up with a new one of the same thing. I let my mother use the really good one I used to have but I’m not willing to contact her about anything that is not life threatening, so the new old model it is. It’s not horrible, just slow. I think I might remember not to set it down on the hot plate this time….I hope….

  2. Glad you’re okay………that’s quite a story!

  3. I got this crazy electric stove, I can’t tell you how many times it has got me,the knobs are all backward so if I’m moving to quick I can turn one knob I think the back burner on and it’s the front or vice a verses, it drives me crazy,I have had so many near misses I can’t begin to tell you. I do my worst thinking when I cook I don’t know why that is but I get myself into so much trouble I again can’t begin to tell you. I should be able to cook my way out of any situation because I was a professional chef/cook but I can get real stupid real fast.

    • Oh dear, that sounds terrible. I also cooked professionally and it is my impression that cooks are a danger to themselves and often others as well, far, far more dangerous than any psychopathic bunny rabbit. Stay safe, mon.

  4. This happens with me when I am riding my bike. I am so lost in my world that suddenly I see a vehicle approaching and I spin (You know the Indian traffic, anybody can appear anywhere)

    Good that nothing major happened. Just be a bit more careful.

    Take care

    • Oh, dear. Ashu, you must take better care riding your bike in traffic! You never know when some insane driver or tuk-tuk will do something dangerous in your direction. Good to practice mindfulness when riding bike in traffic! As well, you know that people’s intentions are not always good. And I’m sure you know that I was bitten by a village dog when I was in a state of bliss after being mobbed and kissed and hugged nearly to death by the children of the village, who all wanted me to come home with them and thus I was practically drawn and quartered. So I was strolling back to the Ayurveda hospital all happy, even though I had broken my wrist the previous evening; when a nasty black dog jumped out of a hedge and took a piece out of my leg. He would have done more if he could have! His owner, a “nice” lady, just watched and laughed. Probably because I’m white. But I’m getting off the subject. What I mean is that you must always be aware of your surroundings when out and about, and most especially if you are on a bicycle! I want to have you around for a long time.

      As for me…I need to take my own advice!!!!

      • Oh Laura, You were bitten by a black dog and the lady laughed . Grrrr. Such people are a blot. Irony is that the kids loved you coz you were white and friendly and the lady hated you for the same reason.

        Thank you for your concern. I ride a moped. Bicycle I cannot coz we have to go long distances.

        BTW I am being curious does Jewish faith answer the questions that why do you face certain agonies in this birth for no apparent reason or fault.

        Incidentally I was told that biting of a black dog is good for us. In the sense it spares us of many many agonies specially legal that we are destined to endure. Its only when one has a true Guru or Master who intervenes on behalf of his disciple, those long drawn troubles are cast into one and a black dog bites which is a momentarily pain physical , mental and psychological.

        Do you think this logic appeals to you?

        • Well, that is exactly what my guru said. He said, “You should thank that black dog because he took away a lot of karma that you would have had to pay for.” That’s amazing what you said. I didn’t know it was specifically a black dog that was the agent of deliverance. Except for black dogs, which do not figure anywhere in Judaism, our beliefs about the agonies of this life are exactly the same as Vedic beliefs, that we are sent into this particular life with all of its suffering in order to fix a specific imperfection in the Universe. I was fascinated to learn that our concept of Time is also exactly the same. So even a man like my father who lived his life tormented about whether he was doing the right thing or not, unknowingly did a lot of small sins, as do all of us, but his suffering seemed out of proportion to his sins, because what he was atoning for was something much greater, coming from past lives or even defects in the Universe that he had no personal part in, except that because he was a good man he was chosen to suffer and heal the defect through his suffering. Does that make any sense?

          • By the way, this was no ordinary black dog. After he bit me, he followed me a long way, staring at me with the “hard eye” that dog trainers (like me) know to be a challenge. I had to walk backwards and stare hard at him or he would have attacked me from behind. I had just broken my right wrist the day before and could not throw anything well, so I was picking up stones with my left hand and throwing them, but could not even get near to hitting him. I swear I saw him laughing at me. I am sure he was an evil spirit. In the Celtic cultures (Ireland, Scotland, Wales), a black dog is an evil shapeshifter–a witch who changes into the form of a black dog. In fact, the illness of depression is often called The Black Dog. The one that bit me–and it was no ordinary bite, for he literally took a 3 cm x 5 cm chunk of flesh out of my right thigh–had glowing malicious black eyes. The wound became infected, and all I could think of was turmeric, so I went to the cooks and got a lot of turmeric, and some cotton wool, and made a strong tea with very hot water and kept bathing the wound over and over till the infection went away. Turmeric is one of the strongest antibiotics that Nature/God has given us. Messy, but life-saving. Do you use it?

  5. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  February 2, 2015

    Maybe you should get one of those ‘induction’ stove tops that you can’t burn yourself or other pots on. I’m just thinking of you. 😉

    • Really, there is such a thing? Hmmm, good idea for some other time. Personally, I like gas stoves. You can see that they are hot because they have a flame. I am thinking of just bringing my camping stove indoors. See, I don’t have much room–only enough for a two-burner something-or-other. I don’t have a “real” stove. Having lived in Israel for a time makes that easier, because very few people have more than a two-burner hot plate (but they get REALLY hot, because people actually cook on them) and a toaster oven that gets seriously hot for baking bread. With this, we cook Shabbat meals for 20 people without even thinking about it. So I am quite used to cooking in that way. One of the annoying things is that I only have 2 gallons of hot water at a time, because of my mother’s absurd idea that anyone can do dishes with 2 gallons of hot water (SHE has a demand hot water heater). So I have to boil water in the kettle to dilute the straight-from-the-rock spring water (whoever said that spring water is always 45 degrees never tested MINE) to a reasonable dish-doing temperature. Otherwise my hands turn deadly white and the pain is absurd. Reynaud’s, you know.

      I hope not to be living here for more than another….oh, some amount of time less than a year, depending on almost everything…so I am not going to make any serious changes in the layout of the place, since I hope to rent it to a real craftsperson who will use it to make beautiful things, and just want a grilled-cheese sandwich once in a while. Insurance; lots of insurance!

    • C’mon, I’m a potter’s daughter! “Go play with fire” was what my mother used to say in order to get rid of me. I took her at her word and my father gave me his Bernz-O-Matic torch and some odd pieces of glass or other flammable substances, to keep me busy so he could make pots. He was all about the protective equipment, though…maybe I should dig out the asbestos gloves? No wait, that doesn’t sound right….

  6. Hello Laura,

    Turmeric in Indian cooking is a must. Its great for healing.

    About the dog, I would say Indian astrology says all the nine planets have certain areas of jurisdiction. Rahu, Ketu and Shani have legal, physical and emotional jurisdiction. All turmoils related to these are directly or indirectly affected by this. Black Dog is the vehicle or symbol of these. Serving them brings relief in these afflictions. In your case he bite you and gave you pain in an instant instead of torturing you for long. So they say that its good to serve a dog as he takes the load of your bad karma by giving you an opportunity to serve him.Serving a cow gives you good karma , serving a crow and fish pay off your debts to ancestors.

    I believe in this and do as much as I can. Its always good to give food to anybody even your enemy( that takes away the share of your bad debts to him, now its his prerogative how he behaves , he is creating anew account. )

    • Wow, thank you for this! Although, truth is he would have tortured me for long if he could have caught me!! I had to walk backwards out of that village. Well guarded, that village! I kept thinking, why didn’t I stay to dinner with one of the children’s families, at least I could have had some enjoyment before I died. I also got very badly bitten at age ten by a large white dog. What would the meaning in that be?

      You’re amazing, you have so much learning! Do you have a guru?

      In Israel also it is very important to feed anyone and everyone. It helps erase your karmic debts and builds merit. Also it is a comandment, if you see your fellow staggering under his load, you must help him even if he is an enemy. That one is very hard because he might kill you, but if he does your sins are all erased and you are freed from reincarnation.

      The fish never closes its eyes, therefore it is the soul off a great sage, who never misses an opportunity to do good.


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