Monday, October 10, 2005

Flaming laundry

Yesterday morning all of the Divas got up early. Paul headed off to cut wood out on the other side of the 40. The kids were helping me pick up the house and put up summer clothes and hang up winter clothes. The past week had been so crazy that I was behind on laundry, so I started that with a vengeance.

I was drying my first load of the day and washing the second load while I was cleaning up the kitchen and dining room. I walked through the utility room for something and smelled something hot. Our non-burnable trash sits next to the dryer and any extra trash bags awaiting the burn pile. Never has the dryer melted a trash bag before, but that was my first thought. So I pulled the trash bags and can out to check, but nothing was melted or smoldering. While I had things pulled out I swept back there. Satisfied that my efforts were going to stop any further smoking odors I went about my business. On another trek through the utility room I noticed the smell was worse. So I shut off the dryer, opened it up to check to see if there was something plastic inside the drum. Nothing. I pulled the dryer out away from the wall - nothing suspicious back there. Satisfied once again, I turned it back on and left the room.

I was leary at this point, feeling sure that something was amiss. I went back into the utility room to find smoke pouring from the electrical outlet! I ran to the back of the house and in my best "nothing's wrong here, I'm a strong in-control mommy" voice, said, "Ab, get your jacket on for me, hon," while I jerked open the closet doors to get the fire extinguisher. "Why?" was her response. Ahh, the quizzical nature of children. "Ab, get. your. jacket. on. NOW. I need you to go get Daddy for me." Again, she queried why. On the verge of panic, I said, "BECAUSE THERE IS A FIRE IN THE UTILITY ROOM NOW GET YOUR JACKET ON!!"

My eldest child is somewhat of a mother hen, so while she got her jacket on she was keeping the other two calm, telling them to get their shoes on in case we had to leave the house. I ran to the breaker box and flipped the switch marked "Utility room". The lights went out, the washer quit filling, I had killed the power. I hollered to Abby to get on the four-wheeler and go as fast as she could across the field to her daddy, praying that the thing wasn't torqued down to a crawl, which is usually how its kept to keep the children from sure death and dismemberment. She couldn't get it started. I have never driven that particular vehicle, so I wasn't sure what to do. I said, "Calm down now, hon. Just start it like you usually would." It wouldn't start! So I ran to the pickup and laid on the horn. Sam ran to the fence and started jumping up and down and waving his arms. I laid on that horn for dear life. From where I was, I couldn't tell if Paul had seen or heard us. So I said, "Abby can you drive the other four-wheeler?" She immediately said no then a lightbulb went off and she said, "YES!! Yes I can!! YaYa just showed me a few days ago!" Bingo!

We both ran to the bigger four-wheeler and I tried to start it. It wouldnt' start either. Then it would start and die. Abby threw her hands in the air and said, "Satan's doing this to us, isn't he?" That's when it hit me to pray. Oh me of little faith. It started on the next try. She flew off across the field and I ran back into the house to monitor the smoking outlet. No smoke, no flames, I ran back outside to see the tractor, which up until this point I wasn't sure would go over 4 mph, bouncing and tearing across the field with Abby behind it, hair flying behind her. Paul jumped off and said, "What's on fire?" as he ran toward me. He pulled the dryer from the wall and said, "Did you kill the power?" I assured him that yes, I had flipped the breaker. "Are you sure?" I said, "Paul, I flipped the breaker that says Utility Room." He took that as gospel and began trying to yank the cord from the wall. Except it was melted to the outlet. Finally he pulled it free, a wisp of smoke came from the wall and he grabbed a screwdriver and began unscrewing the plate.

Nothing all that unusual, neither of us are electricians, so we weren't sure what to look for if we didn't see melted and smoking wires. He told me to call Dad. Dad ran off a list of possibilities, blamed it on the dryer, but said he'd come over and look at it. 15 minutes later Dad arrived and again asked "Is the juice off?" I again said that I had flipped the breaker to the utility room. There we all were bare hands all over the wires, crowded around shoulder to shoulder while we peered at the blackened outlet and cord. Dad couldn't see and said, "Turn on a light, Sis." I said, "Well now Dad, I just told you I had flipped the breaker when it started smoking." He stood up real quick and walked, without another word, to the breaker box. So he could flip the 220 breaker to the dryer.


I wanted to vomit.

So I stood in the doorway to the utility room, chewing on my thumbnail, which is what I do when I get nervous or excited (and trust me, excited was not what I was feeling), silently thanking God for the angels that had kept my father and husband from being electrocuted.

When it was all done, Dad took me out to the breaker box and then showed me that the 220's are all labeled with specific appliances PLUS they are doubles. Duh. I so knew that.

An hour and a half later, a new cord in place, the dryer humming along and peace reigning once more, Dad was walking out the door. I said, "Dad, thank you so much for coming over and helping with that." He smiled and said, "Hey, no problem, kid. That's what I'm here for." Then I patted him on the shoulder and said, "Oh yeah, and sorry I tried to kill you."


Dirk said...

"Oh yeah, and sorry I tried to kill you."
Not a line that usually pops up in polite conversation.

D said...

WOW! So glad no one was hurt! I would have done the exact same thing with the breakers! You sure do lead an exciting life *L*

Redneck Diva said...

Dirk-This is true, but conversations with my father are rarely normal or polite. He totally took that one in stride.

Stacie-I knew if anyone could sympathize it'd probably be you.

Scrapper-Exciting - is that what they're calling it these days?

Queen Of Cheese said...

If you should so need one, I have a dryer that works 11% of the time on my deck. It's been there 3 weeks and is yours if you need it. 11% is an actual figure, Mr. Coach who is a math genius actually kept track of it one day to see how much it worked. I was adament about a new one, he wasn't so sure until he hit 11%. Some days his lack of trust works and some days it doesn't!!!!

Carmel said...

Diva: I emphathize. Since we moved into our new digs three months ago, we've all kinds of exploding and melting sockets -- yes, it's gonna be expensive to fix.

Prayer does help, doesn't it?

Politically Homeless said...

I'm glad Dad survived that little episode!

I almost killed myself once installing a garbage disposal. I was SURE I'd turned off the proper breaker. Everything else in the kitchen was off. The old disposal was out, I was sitting in a pool of water, and wiring the new one. ZAP! I ended up halfway across the room. *Shiver*

Redneck Diva said...

Mrs.Coach-Only Mr. Coach.

Thanks for the offer, but we just put a new cord on the old dryer and now it works 100% of the time!

Cissy-This house was built in '76 so the wiring is approaching old and in a few years when we replace all of the plumbing (post coming on that *sigh*) we'll probably have it rewired as well. So much for being out of debt.

Prayer helps tremendously. I forget to use it and then I'm ashamed. It's a good thing God is a cool Guy.

Brian-OMG it's a wonder you didn't end up bald over that one!

Oh. Wait. Nevermind.


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Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...