It was just waiting to happen and it did. One of my flatmates nearly set the whole oven ablaze this afternoon. I was at that time in my room, typing out a few things for my assignment when my nose picked up a burning smell. I must admit that my sense of smell is not very good, since my sinuses are perpetually blocked. So, if I do smell anything, this means that the smell is quite strong. For a moment, I dismissed it as one of my flatmates’ usual cooking which, to say the truth, sometimes verges on the incendiary and nearly results in a smoke-filled room. But this time, it was stronger since I could distinctly pick it up and my room is the one farthest from the kitchen. For an instant, I just looked suspiciously at my laptop, wondering if I’d let it on for too long.
Then, I opened my door to find one of my flatmates standing in the corridor. As I asked him what the matter was, he ran into his room and came out with his mobile, speaking into it in his language. I mouthed the words, “What is burning?” at him in a half-joking manner, still thinking that it was one of my other flatmates suicidal cooking sessions. He pretends not to understand and keeps on talking, though his eyes are looking at me. He finishes his conversation within two minutes and I ask him again if he can smell something burning. He deviates the conversation, speaking about a technician who came into the flat not long ago. “What was he here for?”, I inquire. He states that he doesn’t know while claiming that he spoke with the man! He clearly finds my presence undesirable, which is odd since he usually has a friendly word with me when our ways cross during the day. As he heads towards the kitchen, I quickly join him to find (strangely without great surprise) what I was half-dreading.
A small pan is on the cooker top, burnt black (almost) beyond recognition. I say ‘almost’ because I know the utensils used by my other flatmates and I recognised this one as belonging to my flatmate who was now silently contemplating the scene next to me. The cooker…it was already very dirty, the cleaners had only come by last Thursday for a cursory look and hadn’t cleaned anything…now a great part of the white cooker top surface was covered with a dark brown coating mixed with a mishmash of indistinguishable food items. The grill, which is directly above the cooker was coated with a dark film, no doubt, from the black fumes that had turned the shiny surface of the pan black and sooty. In the middle of the room, a livid mark, looking very much like a circular open wound scarred one part of the kitchen floor. All the windows were now open, so there was no apparent smoke, but the stench of the burning fumes still hung around. It was a wonder that the fire alarm did not go off.
My face was very grim when I turned towards my flatmate and asked for an explanation. Apparently, he’d gone to the kitchen and placed the pan with some oil on the cooker, which he then lit. He then supposedly left for two minutes after which he returned to find the pan completely engulfed in flames. How can he just be gone for 2 minutes!?? I rarely leave things on the cooker unattended. In fact, it is one of the rules written on the handbook we received on entering this accommodation. It’s only when I put something on the boil that I sometimes return to fetch something in my room for a minute or so. How can anyone be so irresponsible as to place oil on a high flame and not expect anything to happen? And the thing is, I’ve often come into the kitchen to find this particular pan bubbling away on its own without its master around. Well, this will be the very last time it will enjoy a flame. What amazed me was the apparent ease with which he stated that he’d been gone; he scarcely grasped the connection between his absence and the development of the incident. And if he did, he was urgently negating any references to it, by nervously describing what had happened.
When he saw the flames, my flatmate initially panicked (so he said); he reached out for the security blanket and couldn’t find it in its allotted place on the wall, not realising that it had once been used before (by whom? When? Why? It’s a mystery). He found it in a cupboard not far and used it to remove the pan from the cooker and extinguish the fire. In the process, he placed the pan on the floor, thus creating the indelible scar that will remain in evidence for everyone to see thereafter.
I had to battle with conflicting feelings of anger, exasperation and relief while I heard him telling his tale of woe. I wondered very briefly how I would have reacted in his place; I was very relieved that he had not been harmed, but he made me angry with his initial mistake and his attempts to defer the discovery of his culinary exploits in the kitchen. As I looked closer at the gooey kitchen top, he even argued that much of the sticky stuff came from another flatmate’s cooking, implying that yes, the pan took fire, and that was it. No harm done whatsoever to anything else. And I, dear readers, am the rightful heir of the throne of the UK.
During all that time I talked to him, there was not one admission of guilt or responsibility, even though I made it clear that I was expecting to hear something to show that he was in a way responsible. But no. He in fact added that (referring to another flatmate’s cooking again, which made me even angrier) another fire had nearly broken out earlier during the day, and he laughingly added (nervous on seeing my stern look) that it was an unlucky day for the kitchen. Unlucky day indeed!
I have repeatedly stated and I stated it again today that I do not intend to contribute financially to any damage that the others cause to that kitchen, especially considering the magnitude of the mistake such as today’s incident. The cleaners will come tomorrow, but I don’t think they will agree to clean up that mess. On the other hand, I strongly suspect that they will report to the site office about the state of our flat and complain that they can’t do it in such conditions. I would say this, if I were in their shoes. They are supposed to come and clean up, but we too are bound to clean up any visible and immediate mess we make. I have never shared accommodations with strangers before and have always been extra careful (my mom’d be amazed) with any spaces I happen to share with them. My room is my own affair and I can keep it as shabbilly as I like (until I disgust myself and force myself to act :p), but I am very meticulous about public zones we share.
I have honoured my share of the contract. Some of the others haven’t. I refuse to pay the price of that for them. As it is, I suspect that my energy bill will exceed the amount I paid beforehand…but that’s because I have made extensive use of it. Anyway, we still have nearly two more months to go. After that, bliss…
P.S: A special hello, by the way, to the people who have recently added me as LJ-Friends. 🙂 I’ve chatted with some of you on MSN today. Looking forward to further conversations in the future!