This story will focus on 2 things: the events that happened last night, and my crazy-intense anxiety response. We’ll start with the second first:
When my fight/flight/panic mode gets triggered, it tends to be a little overtriggered for a given situation, and it generally tends to get triggered over things that are small and irrelevant. Mom has a stroke (which actually happened when I was 14, and we were the only ones home)? I’m cool (upset and scared, but cool). Dana walks into the room when I’m not expecting it? Total meltdown. I’m breathing so hard I’m about to be thrown into respiratory alkalosis. Zombie movies are not good for me. Loud, unexpected noises are not good for me.
…not that there are any of those in this story.
Remember how Dana’s here to better the country? And I’m here to study and eat? Well, that was happening–he was at a late dinner/work session, and I was wrapping up my flashcards for the day and preparing to throw a pizza in the oven.
We’re staying in the student residences of Ryerson University for this visit. It’s managed like a hotel during the summer, but it’s still set up like a student dorm–there are rooms for the residents/guests, and 1 kitchenette/common lounging space per floor. The kitchenette is nice, and my frozen pizza is precooked, so all I need to do is throw it into the oven to warm it up for 12 minutes. I am 12 minutes away from mozarella-smothered crispy-spinach goodness. It’s gonna be totes delish.
I put it into the oven, sit down with the book I brought with me, and wait for dinner. Delicious, pizza-shaped dinner. It occurs to me that the oven smells funny and that my book is more boring than anticipated and also that I don’t have a pizza cutter. But you know what? I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
And then it occurs to me that the room smells really funny. A bad kind of funny. I look up and smoke is pouring out of the top of the oven. I turn it off and stare at the oven for a brief moment–I really shouldn’t open the door, because more smoke will come out and it would be stupid to set off the fire alarm for a pizza, but it’s only been 3-4 minutes, so what’s going on in there? And also that is a lot of smoke. My head feels funny. The oven’s off…so this is the part where we open windows! I can take the pizza out later?
[Panic level: moderate]
I open all the windows in the room, and turn fans on high, and then, about 10 seconds after seeing the smoke, I realize that this isn’t going to cut it. Like, at all. That stupid smoking pizza needs to come out NOW, because that smoke is going to take over the world and that needs to STOP.
So out it goes. Into the trash. And the oven is still smoking (though less so).
[Panic level: Maximum]
At this point I flee to my room to call the lobby to tell them what’s going on, but the line is busy. By the time I flee back to the common room the alarm has sounded and the entire 11-story building is being evacuated. Because of my stupid need to eat pizza while my boyfriend is off bettering the country. All 11 flights of stairs have morphed into stairs of shame. I feel like a walking tower of awkward American, and a siren is blasting my eardrums.
[Panic level: INFINITY]
As soon as I make it into the clean air, I tearfully tell the building manager and front-desk guy what happened: I put in a pizza, the oven smoked, I pulled out the pizza, the oven kept smoking, I tried to make the situation better, I tried to call, and then I failed miserably. And loudly. The end. I feel about 2 inches tall, and the other building guests are annoyed about the “fire drill”. They are annoyed in multiple languages that I can’t speak, because when I should be off bettering the country or learning languages, I am apparently eating pizza. Like an awkward American.
When the building is cleared (that is, the ultra-fast fire truck has left and security has opened the doors), and I find my way back up to the third floor, I am dead-set on cleaning that oven. After all, my pizza apparently smoked it to oblivion. I should clean it up. What will happen to the next person who uses the oven, with my toxic pizza-mess in it? Nothing smokeless.
The security guard waiting at the entrance to the kitchenette does not share my opinion, and would really rather me go back to my room and curl into a ball and pretend I don’t exist–until I mention the pizza. Then he’s just really confused…which is confusing to me. What caused the smoke, if not my pizza?
When the guard figured out what had happened, he told me a lot of things: he told me that the call was a “mischief case” (PANIC LEVEL APPROACHING DEATH because I never intended to cook my pizza mischievously), and that it was not my fault–someone before me had put a tube of lipstick in the oven as a prank, and anyone who used the oven after that super-hilarious (not) prank would have been “smoked out”. I did nothing wrong because (and I quote) “pizza goes in the oven.”
[Panic level: Deflating]
I was interviewed by another security guard, and gave my information to the security staff and the local authorities. They were wonderful–quick to find out what had happened, quick to ensure I didn’t feel blamed for being the next one to turn on the oven, and professional when they could have been laughing.
Always check the oven before you bake…you never know when someone’s decided it’s a good place to stash some lipstick.