When I was 30 and living in San Francisco, my roommate and I one day set the oven to 500 degrees to cook a frozen pizza — such gourmets we were — and then decided on a whim to fly to Reno for the weekend. We quickly packed and rushed to the airport.
Once there and ticketed, we remembered the oven. Luckily my roommate was a flight attendant — stewardess in those days — and we walked around the airport until we found another United stewardess who was on her way back into the city.
We gave her a key and asked her to stop by and turn off the oven. A weekend — and a high-rise apartment building — saved. That’s an example of the spontaneity of youth, but we boomers are just plain forgetful.
Did I send that email that I created in my mind yesterday? Did I cash the check or did I lose it? Did I bring in the mail or did I set it down in the garage to be forgotten for weeks? We’re so unsure of what we did or did not do, we have every reason to fear for our own safety.
I was recently awakened from a lovely sleep at 8 a.m. — well, OK, it was time to crawl out of bed — by a call from a friend who lives way across town. She had left the house early to drive to a museum event in another city. Once there, she wondered if she had left the gas on under her teakettle.
Oh my. Couldn’t she have heated her cup of water with the miracle device called a microwave that runs only as long as you’ve told it to? And didn’t she have a friend who lived closer? There was no time to ask these questions, as I was enlisted to drive to her home, find her hidden key, get into the house and check the burner.
I realized on my way over there that, since she had left home a good two hours before, if she had left the kettle on, it would long ago have dried up, exploded and caused havoc of some kind. So when I found her house intact with no stream of smoke gushing out, I figured everything was OK.
And the house was fine, although I can’t say the same for me after digging around in the bushes on my tender knees for the key. A very unsatisfying start to my day. I’d have felt more useful if I’d needed to call the fire department.
For your own sanity and that of your friends and family, please give keys to your home to a few people who live close by — a neighbor or friend who is usually at home. And just in case the neighbor is also forgetful, put a clear label on the key and ask him where he’s putting it. Then you can remind him when you call with the emergency request.
Even better, you can install a lockbox somewhere easy to find. With a house key tucked securely inside, you will just need to remember a four-digit code to enable someone to get into your home.
I often wonder what would happen if I were suddenly incapacitated during the night. If I managed to dial 911, how would my rescuers get in? If they knocked down the door, how would the house be secured after they carted me off, sirens blazing? What would happen to the dog? If you haven’t thought about all these possibilities, it’s time.
You don’t have to leave town to worry about a kitchen mishap. I have an increasing tendency to put something on the stove, leave the room, and get immersed in another activity, usually the computer, until the smell of burning food reminds me I’m not so good at multi-tasking anymore.
One of these days I’ll heed my own advice to STAY IN THE KITCHEN when I’m cooking. And instead of a gas burner, I’ll use an electric teakettle to heat water for that cup of tea.