Friday, March 20, 2015

I Almost Died

     At the risk of being macabre . . . do you ever wonder how you're going to die? I have a friend who's been walking around with a pacemaker for a couple of years. I wonder if he thinks that one day the thing will short out, and he'll just fall over. I've never talked to him about it.

     People in my family have strong hearts. I don't worry about my heart. But there's a history of cancer in my family. So I figure when my time comes, I'll get cancer and die.

     Unless I die in a fiery plane crash first. I have a fear of flying, and every time I get strapped into an airplane seat, I imagine I'll going down with the plane, plummeting to earth in a screaming chaos -- although this is pretty unlikely, since I only fly when I have to, once every two or three years.

     Maybe it will be a car accident. Didn't you ever have a close call with a truck at a busy intersection, or a racecar wannabe on the highway, and think, Oh god, I almost bought the farm.

     Also, I admit, I am a little bit clumsy. And all my life I've lived with people who are kind of messy, who have a lot of stuff lying around the house. I'm always banging into something, or falling over something, or tripping over a pile of clothes or a piece of furniture that wasn't supposed to be there. I fell in the shower a couple of years ago, pulling the soapdish out of the wall and taking down the shower curtain and shower rod in the process. Not too long before that I tripped over the open door of the dishwasher. I didn't hurt myself. But I had to buy a new dishwasher. Did you know -- when the door of the dishwasher gets broken off, two big metal springs come jetting out at about 80 miles an hour?

     But here's what happened the other night. B and I like to read in bed before we go to sleep. Actually, she went up early and was asleep by the time I got to the bedroom. I undressed, brushed my teeth, climbed into bed.

     B had given me a candle for Christmas, and we've been lighting it on these cold winter nights. It smells nice, and seems to make the bedroom just a little warmer. So I sat on the bed, reached for my book and my glasses. Then I remembered the candle. So I picked up the candle with my other hand, fumbled for the matches and tried to light one. But my hands were too full, and I was having a hard time. So I tucked the book under my arm, and struck the match towards me, since that was the only way my arm would go at that point.

     The match lit up, and a millisecond later a ball of fire flashed up my arm and across my chest. It just exploded in front of me, flying up my arm toward my shoulder. I dropped everything and slapped at the flame. It went out as quickly as it started.

     I sat there for a minute, stunned. That was close. I almost immolated myself, going out in my own little firestorm. B had slept through the whole thing; and I realized, if the fire had "caught" I might have taken her with me.

     How could a shirt burst into flames? I changed the shirt because it smelled like it had been scorched. I went into the bathroom and ran some cold water over my arm. I looked for burns, but didn't see any.

     I came back to bed. My pillow smelled, so I changed the pillowcase. Needless to say, I didn't try to light the candle again. I read for a bit, then went to sleep.

     I told B all about it the next morning. We looked at my shirt -- actually, it's the top of a set of long underwear. I thought maybe it was made of polyester -- a petroleum product, right? Maybe that would explain the sudden flash of flame. But the shirt was made of cotton. Maybe it has some coating sprayed onto it -- to make it wash-and-wear? I don't know.

     The shirt still smelled in the morning, and B identified a slight brown patch where it had been singed. We never could explain what happened, really, although I resolved to be more careful in the future. As my mother used to tell me -- never play with matches.

     And I realized, it's never what we worry about that gets us in the end. It's always something unexpected, something we never thought was coming.


Anonymous said...

Dreadful. Thank goodness you were able to put out the fire.

Tabor said...

Well, I certainly want it to remain unexpected. I do not want to see it coming!

Janette said...

Death will have to wait. I am glad you are fine.
Fire moves so quickly. Hair is an amazing conductor. I once leaned over a candle and the fire climbed to my scalp in milliseconds.

FYI- UnderArmor is banned in Army aviation. It melts to the body :( Untreated cotton or wool are the only undershirts my son can wear while flying.

Pam said...

Tom, I've heard that fabric softener can be very flammable--just a thought. We have two wood-burning fireplaces, and I've had a couple of close calls with the same type of matches you have pictured. Sometimes the lit end breaks off while still lit, or there are little explosions when you strike it. It can be scary. Thank goodness you're okay!!

Barbara - said...

Now I know why I use one of those automatic click able things for all lighting purposes. Thank heavens you are safe.

Linda Myers said...

My neighbor told me that the night before last one of his cats was playing with the incense stick they'd left burning after they went to bed. There was a fire in that room. Mike said he and Michelle would have gone up in flames if it hadn't been for their parrot, who made a ruckus.

My sister is a worrier also. One time she was taken to the hospital with abdominal pain. The doc ran tests and told her she had appendicitis. She said, "I can't have appendicitis." The doc said, "Why not?" She replied, "Because I've never worried about it."

Barbara said...

My daughter caught her nightgown on fire reaching over a candle on the coffee table. I love scented candles and burn them all the time. It is scary and you keep flashing back to what could have happened. I'm glad you are ok.

DJan said...

Goodness! Thankfully everything is okay, but it could have been so different, as you point out. I am very careful around open flames of any kind, and my hubby doesn't like me to burn candles when I am not watching them. So I don't. Now I am glad I will probably not have an experience like yours. BTW, I found some information on the Pacific Northwest Trail here:

Anonymous said...

Remaining Anonymous because I sound like I am your mother... never, never leave a candle burning unattended. When you got to that part of the story I thought "Oh no!"

rosaria williams said...

Goodness! That was a close call for sure.

Olga Hebert said...

Good grief. I almost never light candles but I think i am bumping that up to never after reading this post.

Stephen Hayes said...

You make a good rational for "worry" being a waste of time. Most of the time when something goes bad it isn't something you worried about.

Anonymous said...

Had your story not had a "happy" ending, we wouldn't know about it, would we. I'm happy to read your tale!

It isn't just open flames that present a danger. In the winter, the robes that I wear over my cotton nightgowns are polyester plush fabric. In the middle of the night, I went downstairs to check the progress of an electric kiln firing. For some reason, I leaned forward and my robe brushed the side of the kiln. Fortunately, although the pile melted along the line of contact, no flame resulted. You can imagine the result had I stayed in the forward position for more than a micro-second!

I never again checked the kiln wearing one of those robes, and the kiln is no longer in the house!
Cop Car

Anonymous said...

I did not mean to imply that I got rid of the kiln because of the danger it presented. When a kiln is only fired every 6-10 years, it really isn't needed!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Tom, I laughed. The thought of you burning all your chest hair off was too much. I hope you learned to never strike a match near a bed, or in a bedroom, and I hope B took your matches away. If it's any consolation, my granddaughter set her hair on fire in chemistry lab, and she said it looked ugly, so she shaved her head. She only shaved one side, however, and it looks awful.

About 'out and about',i. It must be Scots as Cathy suggested.

rporter610 said...

We just never know which day will be our last day, or what will be the reason for it: accident, dumb mistake, clumsiness, wrong place at the wrong time, fatal disease. I try to value each day and give thanks for my life every night. Thanks for bringing up the topic of death. It needs to be talked about more often so people can come to terms with it.

Wisewebwoman said...

I can't believe I had all the same death thoughts as you. not in a morbid way but almost a curiosity. I've missed it by a millimetre far too many times, the last time a month ago multi-tasking on a sheet of sheer ice on my driveway which had me in an ambulance sirening to the hospital.
I must perfect that candle trick.

Dick Klade said...

Scary stuff. Reminded me of very old times when folks used candles as Christmas tree decorations. One of my mom's sisters died from burns she got from a tree candle fire.

Glad you came through OK. We need your good blogs.

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