Afraid of the Oven

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Growing up, my house was wired with electric. When I moved out on my own, the apartment came with a gas stove and oven. My mother reassured me I had just received an upgrade in the world of cooking. I was hesitant about the gas. I preferred the quiet electric burner which slowly and silently warmed from black to red. In contrast, the gas was much louder with a bright blue flame.

Accordingly, I kept my cooking simple, using the stove minimally to boil water. Mostly, I relied on my trusty toaster oven. I was surprised at the number of items that could be cooked on Bake or Broil – from cupcakes to salmon.

Six months later, fully adjusted to the stove, I decided it was time to not be afraid of the oven.  I turned the dial to bake at 350 degrees. The oven made a loud hissing noise. Was that normal, I wondered? Then, I heard a loud gust of wind, and felt the warmth instantly. This cycle repeated itself every few minutes. I sat staring at my oven as the kitchen began to smell like a Chevron station.

Five minutes into my oven experiment, my imagination took over any rationale thought. This was the first time I had used the oven. My roommate whose food was delivered practically every night barely walked into the kitchen except to wash her dishes. Was it possible the gas to the oven was not properly  installed? Could it be leaking? I turned the dial to off immediately.

I called home for a drive by consult on my kitchen dilemma. No answer. Next, I knocked on my roommate’s door. Even though my roommate was home, she said she was busy. Terrified that I could be responsible for potentially blowing up the entire building , I went to find the super. It was 8pm on a Sunday night. Technically, he was not working. But, this might classify as an emergency. I rang the bell, and knocked. He was not home or hiding from me as he sometimes did. Crap, what do I do? I ran through the best and worst case scenarios.

I decided to call the gas company to relieve my fears. I gulped down a lump in my throat as I dialed. The attendant who answered the emergency number immediately asked for my address when I asked if she could describe the signs of a gas  leak. Before I could explain more, she recited a memorized speech: “Please exit your apartment. Do not touch anything, a spark from a light switch can ignite a gas leak. The fire department is on its way.”

Oh dear, what had I done? She hung up on me. I sat on my bed. I was most terrified about telling my roommate what was about to happen. I knocked on her door. She opened it with a look of frustration. I told her there might be a  gas leak in the apartment, and the fire department was on its way to investigate. We needed to leave the apartment. She did not budge, but her silent stare indicated she was not going anywhere far from her Sunday tv line up. I left to wait for the fire department in the lobby. I worried, I think I may have overreacted.

I heard the siren first as the firetruck pulled up to my building. I let them in just as my super was arriving home. Apparently they had called him. He did not look happy as all of us rode the elevator to my floor. Firefighter #1 went to the oven directly while Firefighter #2 tested the air with a special device. I made a note of it in case I should consider purchasing one in the future to avoid such embarrassing situations like this.  Apparently a dangerous gas odor is typically silent or smells like rotten eggs the firefighters educated me. I felt my face turn turn bright red.

The firefighters announced the place safe from any gas leaks. They assured me it was better safe than sorry to call them as I apologize for the inconvenience.  Regardless, I was even more afraid of the oven than ever before. I decided to stick to the toaster oven, and perhaps would see what the fuss about the microwave was all about (but I had not grown up with one of those either…).

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