My mom tells a story about something that happened when my older sister was probably about eight or nine months old. She and my dad were new parents, in love with their baby daughter and each other, and they decided to go for a walk in the freshly fallen snow. They pulled her along in a tiny sled behind them, on one of those perfect, silent winter nights. They didn't notice it when she rolled off. She didn't make a sound. They walked probably about 100 feet before they realized she wasn't on the sled.
Amanda was lying in the middle of the road, happy as can be. My mom tells this story now and is able to laugh about it, but at the time, they just about died of heart failure. A car could have easily driven up the alley, she could have fallen face first and suffocated in the snow. She was fine. They were heart-poundingly aware of how quickly disaster strikes. (Amanda is now a successful attorney with an MBA, a woman of the world, a wife and lover of Diet Coke.)
But I had my own heart-pounding experience on Friday. I worked until about 6 p.m. I actually got out of the office ten minutes early. I was in a rush to get home to let Bella out before starting to drive to a town 45 minutes away where I had dinner plans. I got home around 6:45 p.m. As I opened the door, I was assault by the smell of cooking gas.
Bella met me at the door in her usual happy, bouncy way, with a squeaky toy in her mouth. I didn't immediately see Fred, which scared the shit out of me. Panicked, I ran into the kitchen to find the gas turned all the way up on one of the burners. The entire apartment reeked of it. At first I thought it was my fault. Did I turn on a burner to boil the kettle for oatmeal this morning and forget to light it? Except... I was gone for about 9 hours. It's cold now, all the windows were closed. If *I* had forgotten to turn it off... well, I don't want to even THINK about it. I think Fred must have jumped off the counter and accidentally turned the knob with his foot.
Fred was fine, by the way,happily licking his nether regions on the bathroom rug with one leg fully extending toward the sky like a ballerina. I herded both pets into my bedroom- the door had been closed and it barely smelled of gas- then ran around throwing open windows and turning on the exhaust fan over the stove.
They were fine. I'm so glad I came right home. I work next to the Gigundo Mall of Temptation now; I find myself in there for one thing or another every other day now. I very easily could have gone Christmas shopping until 9:30 p.m. The thought of coming home and finding them...ACK. I can't even type it. When I think of the risk of fire... ACK. ACK!! Would it surprise you to learn that I had a lot of nightmares this weekend?
I wonder, though, how often we brush right past disaster without knowing it. I'm not even referring to the times when we drive past a bad car accident and think, "If I left a minute earlier..." Or even these heart-pounding scenarios like my sister rolling off the sled, and the cat and the gas. I mean, how often do we just pass right by impending disaster, obliviously passing through just before the proverbial anvil falls out of the sky?
The knobs for the stove now live on top of the refrigerator; ironically, next to the dog and cat treat jars. Fred will occasionally get up there, but he only ever kicks down the Pupperoni. He never kicks his own treats down. If somehow the knobs get off the top of the fridge and back on the stove, my pets had better cook me a damn souffle.