DO: CHECK YOUR OVEN
Take a thorough look inside before turning on the heat. Even the smallest flammable stowaway could cause a devastating fire.
DON’T: CHECK THE BROILER
It’s highly unlikely that you have any items stashed in there, and you don’t have much time before your date arrives. And, really, it’s the broiler.
DO: IGNORE YOUR BETTER JUDGMENT
Seriously, time is of the essence. It’s only going to take 10 minutes to run to the store for the ingredients to make chipper chicken—exactly the amount of time it’ll take the oven to reach 350 degrees once you’ve set it to preheat. That’s no coincidence. That’s fate saying, “I got you; go, multitask.”
There are eight units in your building, meaning that when you return from shopping and hear a fire alarm blaring, there’s only a 12.5 percent chance the sound is coming from your place. Even when you factor out the vacant apartment upstairs and the one occupied by the schizophrenic ward of the state—’cause he sure as hell ain’t cooking—the likelihood only jumps to 16.7 percent. You have to feel good with odds like that.
CONTINUE NOT TO: PANIC
Before jumping to conclusions, realize that the hellish cloud of blinding black smoke billowing out of your apartment could be coming from anything. Try not to damage your groceries as you hurl them to the floor. Then shut off the oven, open your window, and turn on some fans. The hazy curtain of darkness and the noxious stench should both pass in no time.
DO: PLAY IT COOL
It’s understandable that your date would begin screaming upon arrival. Calmly move through the smoke until she can see you, assure her there are no signs of an active fire, and offer a comforting smile. A special evening together is salvageable yet.
DON’T: SHOO AWAY THE SCHIZOPHRENIC WARD OF THE STATE WHO LIVES ON YOUR FLOOR WHEN HE STOPS BY AND, UPON HEARING WHAT HAPPENED, ADVISES YOU TO NEVER LEAVE YOUR APARTMENT WHEN THE OVEN IS ON
He’s nuts—how is he supposed to know that you already possess this obvious bit of common sense and were simply choosing to ignore it? Thank him for the tip and send him packing with your recyclables. Both he and the environment will appreciate the gesture.
THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU: ANGRILY COMPLAIN
Back when you signed your one-year lease, your management-company representative and your superintendent noted that future rent increases would be based on how cooperative you were as a tenant. It’s a beautiful Thursday evening; they don’t need to be bothered with news of an apartment fire.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: HURL INVECTIVE
There’s a good chance the source of the fire was the old oven your management-company representative and your superintendent promised to replace. That’s their fault, not yours, even if two months have passed since they made that pledge and you probably should have followed up if it was really that big of a concern. Call them both and leave stern messages, exaggerating the situation for dramatic effect. If your conviction wavers at any point, think back to your delicate, frightened date.
WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: SUMMON THE FIRE DEPARTMENT
Fire can be a temperamental bitch. You have to wait for the smoke to clear, anyway, so you might as well have the local station bring by an engine or two and make sure the worst is over.
DO: FEIGN NONCHALANT BEWILDERMENT
It may be embarrassing when one of the eight firefighters in your one-bedroom apartment determines the source of the fire to be the oven mitts Mom stashed in your broiler pan last time she visited. Rather than bashfully acknowledge this oversight in front of your date, ask one of the firemen if you can hold his pike pole. Pose aggressively, conveying a sense of confidence and control. That should sufficiently bring the episode to a close.
DON’T: WORRY WHEN YOUR MANAGEMENT-COMPANY REPRESENTATIVE FRANTICALLY AND APOLOGETICALLY CALLS YOU BACK AT MIDNIGHT BECAUSE SHE JUST GOT YOUR MESSAGE AND PROMISES TO HAVE YOUR OVEN SWAPPED OUT IMMEDIATELY
Even at that hour, she’s sure to have a sense of humor about the situation and the message you left her. When it comes time to renew your lease next summer, this will all be a funny, fond memory.