Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mrs. Redenbacher

I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business when a coworker came over.

"Chris. I don't want to scare you, but we have a problem in the kitchen."

She had left her microwave popcorn in the microwave and forgotten about it. When she opened it, white smoke bellowed out, so she closed it, but not before filling the kitchen and the neighboring hallway with smoke.

Fact: I am the fire warden for my floor.

Fact: I am not a good fire warden.

I really had no idea how to handle the situation, and panicked a bit. There was no fire, but what is going to happen if this smoke condition sets off the sprinklers? Do I call anybody? Do I let the building know? The popcorn was still in its bag with the microwave turned off. It looked a lot worse than it actually was.

The two of us tried to fan the smoke away with flattened Fedex boxes. Luckily, a lot of the bigwigs in that part of the office were not around to witness this chaos.

"Can we open a window?" asked our Russian tech guy.

Throwing her out the window won't get rid of the smoke, I wanted to say.

This was when I realized that there is very little in the way of air circulation in an office. Had this happened at home, I could have thrown open the window and the powerful exhaust fan would take care of it.

Since the men's room is near the kitchen, I opened the door, hoping that the exhaust fan in there would help.

The Russian tech guy grabbed a flimsy rubber trash can to prop the door open and I thought, Stupid, that's not going to hold the door open!

And then, as if he'd rehearsed it the day before, he jammed the trash can in between the door and the built in trash can projecting out from on the wall, holding the door open fully.

I have to learn to stop underestimating people.

I stood by the door and tried to fan the smoke into the bathroom. My eyes watered, and the smell was just vile. You have no idea. God only knows what chemicals I breathed in that day.

After an eternity, the smoke vanished, but the stench remained. I opened the microwave and pulled out the bag. It was still closed, but you could see how blackened it was on the inside, just waiting to burst open and cover us all with soot.

I put the popcorn back in the microwave.

For the next hour, I fielded phone calls from people around the office.

"What the fuck happened?"

"Who did that?"

"What's that smell?"

I really don't understand why people would just throw something in the microwave and leave, as if they're that busy. Really? You can't stick around to make sure it doesn't explode or catch fire? I've caught many a coworker cooking oatmeal in there, which tends to overflow the cup in 3 seconds, spilling all over the plate.

The office smelled like burnt toast for the rest of the day, and when I went home, my clothes smelled the same. Vile.

This is why I was ecstatic when we decided to stop ordering microwave popcorn for the office last year. Besides the fact that it's a huge waste of money. Buy your own fucking snacks, people! This isn't kindergarten!

Whenever someone brings in a toaster for their "personal use" I want to scream, "Could you be any more high maintenance?" Are you going to clean that fucking thing yourself? Or will you allow it to gather crumbs and burnt raisins until we have a roach problem that we have to pay to get rid of? And how will you find jobs for the rest of us when you put your bagel in there, wander off to take a shit, and subsequently start an inferno that guts the whole office?

Related: City of Seattle to Ban Microwave Popcorn


Hamamama said...

i knew we were in good hands since you are our designated fire marshall. i cant believe the smell is still around.

Chris said...

It will be around forever. And I think we're banned from using the microwave for popcorn. I want to push to make it firm wide.

Glory von Hathor said...

I had a flatmate who used to charcoal assorted meat produce on a weekly basis. I will always associate her with the metallic smell of burnt lard.

Next time one of your esteemed colleagues rustles up some popcorn/oatmeal post-flambé, I recommend you unplug the microwave, drench a towel (or your colleagues sweater) in cold water and drape it over the microwave door, before opening it just a little bit. The damp towel absorbs some of the stink particles as the hot air circulates upwards.