Shameless Wednesday Confession: On Fire

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, hasn’t it?, and after Kerri Anne’s recent duel with the pilot light, I thought it only appropriate to tell you guys that, sharks and talking on the phone aside, my next biggest fear in life is…FIRE. That’s right, I’m a certified, Grade-A pyrophobic. So it would only be fitting, of course, that nothing delights my significant other more than watching things burns; he  even views any major holiday as a chance for one massive bonfire (appropriately, he was born on the Fourth of July). Suffice it to say, to this day, I have never lit a match or lighter (or bong or bowl, I think it’s safe to add). (I think I might have waved my finger through a flickering flame once when I was 12 at Larissa Chaney’s birthday party and all the kids were doing it, but while it wasn’t the slightest bit painful, that one time was more than enough for me.)

I kept a safe distance between the fire and me on New Year’s.

Like most fears, I’m not really sure when it all started, though I’d postulate that it was sometime between the ages of 3 and 5, when I was old enough to hold my own candle at the Christmas Eve service but before my Southern Baptist church (yep, the crazy kind) was fancy enough to have the candle holders that contained the melting wax (to the contrary, they would drip down and burn my poor little fingers). Thanks a lot, God, I’m holding you responsible for this one.

Necessary components for Danish bar-going fun: dice + Tuborg.

Then, when SVV and I moved to Denmark at the end of 2005, I had a fire encounter that would make my minor fear (at the time) all the more debilitating. Denmark is cold about nine months out of the year (maybe even longer). During our stint there, it snowed from December all the way into May. The two of us shared a tiny nine-square-meter room (with slanted ceilings) and lived with seven messy guys, so we spent much of our free time (and free time abounded in Denmark where we had no jobs and approximately five hours of class a week) at the bar. At the bar in Denmark, they like to play dice game (similar to Yahtzee or Bunco, but a lot more fun). On the tables where they play dice games, there are often candles (considering in the winter, Denmark boasts all of two hours of sunlight). One rousing round of dice while we were spending the weekend in Copenhagen, out of nowhere the pink Gap sweater my mom had sent me as a Valentine’s Day present burst into flames. SVV and our friend Kristian sprang up in surprise and instead of beating the fire off of me as sensible folk might, they started jumping up and down like little schoolgirls and demanded I take off my sweater (typical dudes; though they claimed it was because they were afraid my hair was going to be the next to go, but I know the truth). Obedient as always, I did as they said. The fire was quickly distinguished, and somehow my sweater made it out unscathed (in retrospect, I think it caught the pills and really just did me a favor by ridding the sweater of the rest).

The sweater that caught fire, captured the following day on the train ride back—see? no marks!

Fast forward to that August. I had just returned to the States and was back in Tennessee for three weddings in two weeks (story of my last five years). One friend, Sandy, decided to use sparklers in lieu of the traditional rice send-off. I politely declined, as sparklers have always terrified me, too (could be the whole fire relation), and took my position on the opposite side of the yard, as far away from the tightly-packed group of sparkler wavers as possible. As I was sitting there minding my own business, sending Sandy and Duck well wishes from afar, a (likely drunken) sparkler bearer started waving his wand back and forth and flicked a spark clear across the yard, and, I kid you not, IT LANDED ON MY BIG TOE. In the middle of my big toenail, to be precise, and burnt a hole through the middle of the keratin! If my last week’s all-consuming chemical burn to my face and neck hurt like a mofo, this came startling close in comparison. Only me.

Far from the madding (flame-flinging crowd), and I still got burned!

Then, there was the whole story about how the wildfires followed me last summer and the recurring nightmares of our house going up in flames that followed. So um yeah, not a fan. Am I alone—any other pyrophobes out there, or are you all arsonists like SVV? (By the way, the ever-reliable Yahoo! answers gives me some insightful tips on how to kick the paranoia: “just stay away from fire!” Now why didn’t I think of that in the first place?! That or seek professional help.)

Taken just 10 minutes after San Bruno Mountain caught fire in June 2008, from our front porch, NO ZOOM.

In other news, it turns out that sometimes good things do happen to good people (or OK people, as my case may be): This week is full of a very deadline-laden few days—before I take off on an assignment Friday, I have to write six blog posts for 7×7 on California travel, polish off a few pitches, pen a dive story for Frommer’s, oh and finish up the final two chapters (or 20 percent) of the guidebook that has been the bane of my existence since last May (to put things in perspective, it took me seven months to complete the remaining eight chapters…now I have to do two in less than a week?!)—and guess who was summoned for jury duty yesterday? That’d be me. (Technically, I was summoned for jury duty in November, but was in Barbados and had to push it back to January, not having any clue that I’d have so much work to finish after the holidays.) Guess who almost got up at the crack of dawn (that would be 6:30 for this self-employed gal) to head down to San Mateo to serve said duty? Guess who also, for once, was smart enough to read her instructions in entirety—key words, THE NIGHT BEFORE—and therefore who also checked online for the status of her group? Guess who was then told she did not have to “appear” but rather was “on call” and must phone (a friend) at 11am the following day to see if she was needed? Guess who was not, in fact, needed at all? Probably the same person who was supposed to spend all day, if granted immunity, meeting aforementioned deadlines but instead decided to watch last night’s episode of Gossip Girl then scour the world wide web for any possible spoilers on what might have happened between Blair and Uncle Jack. So I’m back to stress mode (which could explain why I’m “wasting” even more valuable work time blogging, yes?).

Me at my last court appearance, because I’m all about the visuals. (Finally got the result of that just days ago, by the way: GUILTY. Merry Christmas to me indeed.)

And one final final thing before I sign off—have you heard of Tweetyear, in which a single British lass takes on a different challenge every day for a full year (I guess she could be a he, but it sounds like a female thing to do, right?)? It’s very Danny Wallace in his amazing memoir, Yes Man (I don’t care if you’ve seen the movie, READ THE BOOK). So far, in the first six days of 2009, this has included eating a Big Mac in just four bites, learning the meaning to three new words, painting a self portrait, making an origami animal and learning “street speak.” Pure brilliance. And you can even add your suggestions to the mix via her Twitter or site (if you’re uncool like me and still have yet to Tweet-cave). (Thanks to my fair Canadian maiden, Sparkly to Single, for the linkage on that one!)

  • January 7, 2009

    i did the same googling to see if Blair slept with Uncle Jack!!! there’s no way she slept with him, though, right? they just want us to think that. right?

  • January 7, 2009

    I know I shouldn’t be laughing about your fear of fire, but you cracked me up with the story of the wayward spark landing on your big toe! Hee hee 🙂 For what it’s worth, I was scared to death of those sparklers things as a child after one burned me on the hand. And you already know I share your fear of sharks. I’ve yet to encounter one on any dives though!

  • January 7, 2009

    I’m not deathly afraid of fire, I mean, I’m afraid of burning to death, but who isn’t? I don’t play with fire, but I have a normal amount of fear, I think, of it. I know and fear its power.

    I was summoned for jury duty when I lived in California. I lived in Menlo Park at the time and it was right around the time they were moving the Scott Peterson trial to Redwood City. I was convinced I was going to get picked for his trial. But thankfully, I didn’t. I, like you, just called the day before and they didn’t need me.

  • January 7, 2009

    My cowriter is deathly afraid of fire. She’s been known to go home at lunch to BROOKLYN just to see if her iron is off. And it’s automatic shut off!

    I am deathly afraid of spiders and I saw the world’s best spider beast in Thailand. The screaming could be heard for miles.

    And I’m glad the writing deadline gods have smiled on you!

  • January 7, 2009

    I’m deathly afraid of all things underwater. Which means, yes I know, snorkeling. It’s really the only fear I have like that. Except earth worms. Blech. I think I’ve just watched too many movies with dead bodies in water/people drowning. I’m just sure I’m going to see a dead body in the water some day.

  • January 7, 2009

    I’m scared of men who accessorize with chainsaws and ski masks.

    Good luck with your deadlines!

  • January 7, 2009

    I grew up with Malibu fires and my family is all still there…so whenever there is a fire, I call my dad and he tells me he’s not packed his car, even though he’s gasping for breath from the smoke. My family has yet to be touched by it. You need to move to the rainforest. I don’t think fire is possible there.

    Regarding jury duty…there is NO GOOD TIME for jury duty. That’s what I say. See here

  • January 7, 2009

    Thanks for the link!

    I’m not particularly afraid of fire – in fact if anything, I tend more towards SVV’s side! I love bonfires and fireworks and sparklers, although your photo of the sparklers has convinced me never to use them for a wedding because The Smoke!

    No, I am afraid of flying in planes and of needles. But I fly in planes anyway because my fear is annoying. Needles, however, I avoid at all costs if I can. No tattoos, no blood donations here. Although I would like to get over that fear enough to donate blood, even if it’s only once. And yes I know that needles don’t hurt that much. It’s not the pain the I’m scared of, it’s THE NEEDLE!!

  • January 7, 2009

    After having a house fire, anything fire related FREAKS ME OUT.

  • January 7, 2009

    I’m glad I got to hear these stories in person too!

  • January 7, 2009

    I’m not pyrophobic or a pyromaniac- but maybe that’s because I haven’t been exposed to the kind of experience that would push me in either direction.

    Good luck with all the work you have ahead of you- 6 blogs posts for another outlet! It’s hard enough for me to keep up with my own!

    Also, I bet you I could convince you to get obsessed with twitter. Let me know if you ever want to take me up on that.

  • January 8, 2009

    I’m something of a pyromaniac myself.

  • January 10, 2009

    This post totally reminded me that Chris is super paranoid, not really of fire, but of things spontaneously combusting, or more specifically: of our oven being able to turn on by itself and burn the apartment down. Like, he won’t leave grocery bags on the top of stove for even five seconds, because what if they turn on! And everything burns! Sometimes it’s like a really bad Sci-Fi movie over here. Heh.

    And I didn’t know that Yes Man was a book! SO excited to read that instead of watch Jim Carrey.

    Oh, and my biggest non-existential fear? Forests at night. And surfing. I know that probably sounds dumb, but when I was surfing in Oahu with girlfriends the ONLY thing I could think about while I was trying to stay on my board was “I can’t see what’s underneath me. Jaws could be underneath me. Or jellyfish, or something THAT I CANNOT SEE.” And I’m really not afraid of marine life, or the ocean, in general, but surfing freaked me out. Randomly, about four months after we left Oahu a surfer was attacked by a shark on the very beach where we were surfing. AACK.

  • January 13, 2009

    I am afraid of heights! After climbing Half Dome last year I was too much of a wuss to take a picture by the edge, where you could see the valley below. I was at least five paces from the edge, just in case a deadly quake hit Yosemite and throw me over the edge. You never know!

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