Fire!

Life is what happens, John Lennon said, when you’re busy with something else. I was downstairs in my office, working on my new business blog and website – take a look, here – Rob was down town having a massage, and Maria, our 80 year-old Italian neighbour was across the street, visiting neighbours. A quiet, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in Toronto, and my mind was elsewhere – on jobs and consulting, on websites and technology, on our upcoming trip to South Africa and Namibia and our FaceTime conversation, that morning, with my daughter Eve and her husband who are in the process of immigrating. It is Eve, by the way, who is pregnant with her first child and our first grandchild.

Maria meanwhile had left, on the stove in the kitchen at the back of her semi, a nice pot of chilli for her Mexican boarder: and as the pot ran dry, and the food began burning, smoke filled the room, and set off the smoke alarm. Jackie and Andrew, who live in the semi on the other side of Maria’s, heard the alarm and smelled the smoke and, like the good neighbours they are, came out to investigate. Andrew climbed up outside the kitchen and peered in – all he could see was smoke.

At that point Rob swung into the driveway out back and saw the kerfuffle and asked what was going on. Smoke, said Jackie and Andrew. Maybe a fire. Was Maria inside? No-one knew, so Rob dialled 911. Within minutes, in the distance, you could hear the sirens, and the neighbours began gathering. Maria, who was still having tea or coffee or, who knows, a brandy with her neighbours, noticed the small crowd in front of her house and came outside to investigate.

Next thing three fire engines pulled up, and in went the firemen. After the stove and the pot had been dealt with, they went in again, this time with an extractor fan, and once the smoke had been cleared they went in once more to check for carbon monoxide. Then they checked Jackie and Andrew’s for carbon monoxide, too, for good measure.

By this time everyone had relaxed, including the firemen: Maria, though obviously mortified, and in a state of shock, managed a few wisecracks, and everyone stood around saying how lucky she was that it wasn’t that serious, and that it could have happened to any of us.

As, indeed, it very well could: there have been several occasions lately where either Rob or I have have left the gas plates burning, after we have eaten.

And there was the unspoken thought, too, that things might have ended, on this particular occasion, very unpleasantly.

It’s moments like these that bring you back to earth with a bump. We might be somewhere else in our heads, but life happens regardless.

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