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On playing with fire and close encounters with the FDNY in New York.

Posted by on July 9, 2014
Fire Department New York City

Fire Department New York, outside our hotel building


Today was an eventful day. We almost tasted our fifteen minutes of fame courtesy the spouse, in New York, Warhol’s own city, no less.

It so happened that the spouse decided to fix the older one some breakfast this morning since I was busy running an errand with the younger one, not far from our aparthotel. When I arrived at the scene with the child, we found that there was smoke all over the living room and Z began to animatedly tell me that her father did not know how to toast bread without causing a mini fire.

The guilty party had a more logical explanation waiting for me, of course. Apparently it was the toaster’s fault because the toaster in the kitchenette was not an automatic one. I figured that the husband had forgotten all about the bread and gotten busy with the emails on his laptop while the toast slowly went up in flames. I could not figure however, what it took for a slice of bread to burn to such an extent and yet for a man sitting a few feet away from it to not realize it. An ageing olfactory system perhaps?

The windows had been opened to let the smoke out and our man quickly disappeared from the scene to get ready for the day. Seconds after he had shut himself away, the fire alarm of the apartment went off and the hotel staff started dropping by, one after another, to check if all was well with apartment #1102. I assured them that it was a minor incident, which it indeed was, and sent them back.

In the meanwhile the fire alarms in the entire hotel had gone off and I heard our family name announced on the PA system. “This is a false alarm from the Shroff family’s apartment on the 11th floor, there is no cause for panic. Please do not evacuate the building. There has been no real fire.”

Both Z and I were mortified by the pandemonium the burnt toast and someone’s poor cooking skills had created. “I am sure he is not having a bath but has locked himself up in there only to spare himself the embarrassment of having to explain to the hotel staff. And he has left us here to deal with it,” stated Z rolling her eyes (*).

While we were discussing this, someone started to knock fervently at our apartment door and I opened it to only to see four FDNY (Fire Department New York) men in overalls and water hoses at our doorstep. I had to sheepishly share the burnt toast story with them in exchange for a cold and sneering look back from the main chap. I threw in some humour too to lighten up the situation but I only got a condescending look back in return. I could be imagining this, but I think I saw them look at each other with a look that said “stupid Asian woman”.

They then insisted on inspecting the precinct thoroughly and left only after they were sure that there was no actual fire around. I found this strange because if there really was a fire in the apartment, why would I be hiding it? Ooh, or perhaps they thought I was a homicidal lunatic who was trying to kill somebody in the presence of my two innocent children. Whatever it was, I was relieved to have seen their backs and took another twenty minutes before I stepped downstairs to get away from the lingering smell of carbon and to organize breakfast for the girls. To my surprise, I saw the FDNY car parked right outside the hotel with the fire inspector and his flunks sitting in it and looking up at the hotel building as if in anticipation of something else going wrong. Talk about being paranoid!

When the husband finally came out of the bathroom, all fresh and crisp, he heard me narrate all that had taken place in his absence with such equanimity that it was almost poetic. It takes a real man to hear that he had contributed to a mini emergency situation that has commanded the attention of the fire department of the city and not get ruffled by it, like it was an everyday occurrence.

“Wasn’t this fun? Think of this as a part of the overall New York experience,” he told the girls sounding pleased with the proceedings of this morning  in a manner that would have you think that we had been a part of an amazing, once in a lifetime occurance.

“And you, I know this will be in your blog tomorrow,” he told me in a manner that suggested that he would not kill me if I wrote about it or that he had accepted that such reportage in my blog was fait accompli. He was right. This was fodder for my blog for sure. It was also fun to meet with the FDNY squad and have them suspiciously watch our flat from their car downstairs. We did get a taste of the real Gotham City. Although I do hope that next time we burn something in this city, Spiderman or Batman show up instead of crummy looking firemen in overalls.

**I am told this eye rolling at parents is a condition that sets in just as a kid is on the threshold of teenage and usually lasts for at least a decade.


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