How to Be…On Fire

by Lindsay Timmington

Recently I did laundry at the laundromat around the corner from my apartment. Because I was racing to get to a meeting I left my sheets and towels rumbling around in the huge drier while I darted home to change and then ran back to pick up my laundry.

I should mention it was nine thousand degrees in NYC that day.

As I bent over, sweat tricking down my back, off my forehead and into the drier that held my clean laundry, I cursed as I hauled the scalding hot sheets and towels directly out of the drier and shoved them into my laundry bag.  I cradled the wretchedly hot bag and waddled home, well past the point of perspiration and directly toward the it’s-time-for-the-third-shower-of-the-day type of sweating.

I climbed two flights of stairs with my steaming bag of sheets and unceremoniously dumped them on my bedroom floor.  I grabbed my bag and keys and dashed out the door to make it to my meeting on time.

Two hours later I unlocked the door to my apartment and walked in.  My first thought was that something didn’t smell quite right, closely followed by a suspicious look at my neighbor’s door–for there are always varying fragrances comin’ outta that place.  As I walked further into my apartment I realized the smell was most decidedly coming from some place in my home.  But I still couldn’t put my finger on what the smell was.  Vaguely chemical-ly, I briefly wondered if there was some sort of electrical work going on, talked myself out of a carbon monoxide poisoning reasoning that you couldn’t smell that shit, and then wondered if maybe this was just the smell people talked about when the temps reached past ninety degrees in the city.  I didn’t see anything worrisome, and the smell wasn’t overwhelming so I went about my day.

An hour later I went into the bedroom to empty my laundry bag and move on to the clothes washing phase of the laundry process.  I opened the cinched bag and dumped the contents on the floor (I know–I know, I’m a domestic goddess) and then yelped when molten lava hit my foot.  I jumped back and my first thought was “ohhhhhh, this is where the smell is coming from!” followed closely by “oh shit! is that SMOKE?!”

You know how some people are good in an emergency?  Knowing right what to do and acting quickly and all that boy scout jazz?

Yeah, that’s not me.

I hopped on one foot and took a picture on my iPhone instead.


In retrospect I wish I had taken more pictures because this is so obviously a situation that calls for photographic evidence.  But you’ll have to make do with the few snaps I have because-you know- some stuff was on fire in my house.

I reached down to pick of the charred, smoking ball of something immediately dropping it when it burned my hand just like it had done to my foot.  Brilliant, I am.

Then I went into the kitchen to get some tongs to pick it back up again, because clearly INSPECTING it was more important than, oh I don’t know, submerging it in water or removing it from my house.

As I held the black ball of something near my face I realized it was a washcloth.  A charred ball of washcloth shedding cinders and as I carried it to my front door and set it down as if it would see itself out.  I ran back to the pile of laundry when I realized that there could be more things on fire inside the jumble of laundry and in another moment of brilliance, shook everything out.  OVER MY HIGHLY FLAMMABLE TARGET RUG.


I realized my mistake and quickly began kicking the wicked hot sheets and towels towards the front door, near the washcloth that still had little tendrils of smoke still rising towards my smoke detector.

Realizing this I ran to the living room to open up the windows and turn on the fan.  Because circulating air in an apartment that has things aching for a little oxygen to encourage fire was the smart thing to do.

Then I ran back to my pile of sheets and stared dumbly at the situation I still had no idea how to handle.

I finally grabbed my tongs, picked up the washcloth put it in the bathtub and turned on the cold water.  After the sizzling had died down when I felt confident I could wrap the washcloth up in the ruined sheets in order to take them out to the trash, I wrapped up my bundle of failure and headed to outside.


On my way out I passed the super of my building who was heading inside.  I smiled and said hello as if it was perfectly natural for me to be taking a pile of charred sheets to the trash on a Friday afternoon.  I rounded the corner to the dumpster when I heard him shout at me.

“Hey! You!” I turned to look at him.  “You bring over here!” He pointed at the trash bags lined up on the corner of the street.  I sheepishly walked over to him and as he opened up the bag I prayed that he wouldn’t ask me why my sheets appeared to have been set on fire.  He paused for a moment to look at me with a combination of disdain and disbelief.  He sighed and said, “You make a lot of work for me, you know?”

I nodded as I dumped the ruined remnants of my laundry into the trash bag.

You and me both, buddy.  You and me both.