Freezing Air, Fumes and the Fire Department


The current cold snap in the Northeast reminds me of a another cold winter, allegedly the “coldest winter in the history of Massachusetts.”

The current temperature outside.
The current temperature outside.
Microwave Popcorn
Microwave Popcorn

What do microwave popcorn, the fire department and freezing air have to do with each other?  Hon, I’ll tell you, and apologies to my friends that have heard this story before.

Time:  Wintersession at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Junior year of college.

Setting:  Kitchen of the house I shared with five other girls.  Only one of my roommates and I stayed for Wintersession, so it was just she and I and our cats in the house that cold, cold month.

Definition:  Let me define “cold, cold.”  Winters in Amherst were probably warmer than winters in Alaska, but when you went outside, it felt like the fluid under your skin froze. My expressions froze in place.  That’s better than botox!

Snacktime:  My roomie, Pam, and I shared a bowl of microwave popcorn. What was at the bottom of the bowl?  Unpopped kernels, of course.  I thought Let’s pop the unpopped kernels on the stove. I put one (ONE) unpopped kernel in a pan of oil on the stove and waited to hear it pop.  It didn’t!

Kabloowie:  I lifted off the top of the pot and a ball of fire shot up into the air.  Kabloowie!  I knew you weren’t supposed to put water on a grease fire and the flames were contained in the pot, so the only thing to do was turn the stove off and put the lid back on.  Black smoke filled the kitchen, then the house.  There was screaming. There was panic. There was a call to the fire department.

Fumes:  Pam and I ran helter skelter around the house.  We opened all of the windows, grabbed washcloths to cover our faces and ran to our car.  Then we realized our cats might run out of the open windows, and we were so worried about our cats that we ran back into the smoky house and, somehow, found the cats. (I can’t remember if we had two or three cats. I just know who cleaned the litter box and WHO DIDN’T! But, I digress.)  Arms full of felines, we ran back to the car and waited for the fire department.

Fire Department:  The fire department folks told us over the phone that they weren’t coming.  We were to wait until the smoke dissipated.  That’s it?

Freezing Air:  There was nothing to do but sit in the car and wait.  We turned on the radio and this is what the announcer said, “Tonight is the coldest day in the history of Massachusetts!  Ever!”

We waited a long time.  We were cold.  When we finally ventured back in the house, we found the kitchen cabinets sooty and the pot completely charred.  But, other than a smoky house, everything was fine.

Even the cats.

Lesson Learned:  Don’t EVER try to pop unpopped microwave popcorn kernels. Not even one.  It’ll go up in flames!


4 thoughts on “Freezing Air, Fumes and the Fire Department

  1. Oh man! What a great story! I’m amazed that the fire department said they weren’t coming!
    I’ve tried to pop unpopped kernels also. I don’t think I’ll try that again.

    Here in the Midwest, we’ve had our share of cold weather. We finally came out of the negative temperatures. Even ten degrees feels balmy now.


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