Sunday, February 26, 2012

Smoke and Incense

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a heightened sense of smell--sometimes I’m grateful for it, and sometimes not, depending on the situation. I’ve also always had an aptitude for adventure, or rather some might say adventure finds me, depending on the situation.

I bought my top-floor condo brand new almost 11 years ago, and have had the same stupid smoke alarms ever since. You know the kind, the ones that go off at even a hint of something being over-cooked in the oven or on the stove and then you’ve got to grab a kitchen towel and start fanning and waving it like crazy to make it stop. Many-a-time have I had to silence the damn things, only to end up taking them off the ceiling so I could cook in peace. I also love to burn incense but hadn’t done so for many years simply because the smoke alarms just couldn’t take it--they would freak out immediately. Now to be fair to them, they have done their duty, especially in this situation...

Three Christmas’ ago, when I was still in the stage of having a 10 foot real Christmas tree in my home (I have vaulted ceilings), there was a major incident that scared the crap out of me. I had a bunch of candles lit during my big Christmas Party, and I had gone to bed that night forgetting to extinguish one of them. Unbeknownst to me, and thanks to all the old wicks in the bottom of the holder, it burned all day Sunday and at 3am Monday morning I awoke from my sleep to the deafening sound of my smoke alarm. I jumped out of bed, tripped over the cat (what a surprise), and ran into my living room to find a 3 foot flame shooting out of this candle holder, right next to my gigantic tree. I tried to use water to put it out, but the holder had melted and the oil-based varnish reacted to the water and the flame shot even higher. I was able to smother it eventually, and I’m pretty sure I lost a few days off my life that night. The next day I was in Canadian Tire buying replacement fire extinguishers for my expired ones--it also gave me an excuse to stop by the local fire station just I could make sure I was buying the right ones (wink wink).

Then there have been times where I was well aware (eventually) that there was smoke in my home, and I didn’t need the incessant sound of the alarm blaring to determine that. For example...

I enjoy my baths--a time for relaxation, yes? I had the spa music going, the scented oils were permeating the air amongst the bath water, and of course, the candles were lit. I have a giant mirror in my guest bathroom (which is where the tub is) so when had my foot up on the toilet seat cover to begin removing the nail polish from my toes and I started to smell something burning along with hearing a weird crackling sound, I was grateful to have the giant mirror there. Why might you ask--because as I looked up, I noticed the hair piled on top of my head with a clip was on fire--I had tilted my head into one of the flames. I was quickly able to put it out but of course within seconds the smoke alarm outside the bathroom went off--that, coupled with the trauma of almost burning my hair off while using flammable nail polish remover and attempting to silence the damn alarm without ripping it from the ceiling, it is fair to say that any potential relaxation was long gone. I still went through with the bath, even though the smell of scented oils were nullified by the lingering stink of burnt hair, my iPod shuffled into heavy metal, and I was swearing up a storm--yeah, real relaxing. I also began to think that maybe my cat Dexter and I are more alike then I thought (see blog on Dexter).

After hearing some of these stories, you know your friends love you when they are suggesting, through their gifts, that perhaps you should reconsider lighting things on fire in your home, like candles, for example. My good friend Sheral gave me a beautiful candle holder one Christmas with what I thought was a used candle in it--turns out, it was one of those fake candles. Thanks Sheral.

After much deliberation, I finally decided to replace my old smoke alarms with new, photoelectric ones that were less sensitive to cooking, etc. and save myself the potential heart attack every time I was in the kitchen. It was very exciting at first--I could cook to my little heart’s desire with no alarms going off--I even spilt something all over the bottom of my oven, and it still didn’t go off.

Naturally, I felt it was time to start burning incense again. What can I say, I like the smoke of incense--and not the “stick” kind--I need the real stuff--the resin. My two amazing friends who live on Galiano Island also contributed to the cause by getting me some cedar rope that I could burn, and after a visit there and a trip to Banyan Books, I was loaded up on all things that smoked and ready to really test the limits of my new smoke alarms.

I was quite surprised that for months and months I really let it rip, and still the smoke alarms would not go off. I even managed to convince myself that my new alarms were special, and that they could tell the difference between incense smoke and real fire smoke (in retrospect, I do realize that was quite stupid to believe that smoke alarms were that advanced). Now all the while, all I could think of is maybe these things aren’t working--what if there was an incident like that Christmas where I almost burnt down my home? So with that in mind, I really pushed it--I closed my doors so they were only open a crack and lit as much incense as I could at once. When I could barely see my hand in front of my face and when I was sure my neighbours were going to file a complaint against me, the sweet sound of the smoke alarm was in the air. I never thought I would be so happy to hear the alarm go off. Once I passed that euphoric stage (it also might have been the incense), I realized that these alarms were 10 times as loud and I had a bit of work to do! As I ran around opening doors and turning on fans, relief washed over me as I knew that my smoke alarms were on my side, and that I could enjoy the incense I love so much, in moderation of course. So what if my hearing is now slightly impaired and Dexter was seriously traumatized by the noise and smoke alarms and I can now live cohesively under one roof.

1 comment:

  1. It brings back such memories, over at Dennis and Doug's house, and "finding" a five gallon can of gasoline and a pack of matches. Oh, what fun we had. Ah, to be a nine year old boy again. I miss my eyebrows sometimes.