After Tuesday night’s events at our house, our family better make it to church this Sunday. It’s the least we can do.
I got home that evening for supper shortly after 5 p.m., and Becca was – as usual – getting the kids ready and at the table. She asked if we had any more milk other than what was in the kitchen fridge, so I ventured downstairs to look in the spare one – the kind of small refrigerator students typically keep in their college dorm rooms.
The downstairs fridge was empty, but that didn’t concern me at all compared to the terrible odor that filled the air. Something was burning … but what?
I called Becca downstairs, and she was immediately as alarmed as I was. The first thing we did was check the vent in the family room, thinking something might be wrong there. She checked in the unfinished part of the basement, were the furnace is (not to mention the sump pump, and washer and dryer). I started looking at electrical outlets.
Still, we couldn’t figure it. To me, the smell seemed to be dissipating somewhat (in retrospect, I’m sure I was just becoming accustomed to it), and a few short minutes later we were back upstairs eating supper. We never smelled any of the foul aroma – almost like a burning rubber, or plastic – waft upstairs, and I returned to work about 6 p.m.
The phone rang in my office about 10 minutes later.
"I found the smell," my wife said, with more than a small hint of fear in her voice. The cable running from our converter box into our VCR/DVD player had virtually melted near the VCR connection point. She could see a small amount of smoke in the air. And, not surprisingly, she didn’t want to touch anything.
At first, we talked about how lucky we were that we identified the problem in the first place. Yes, we have a smoke alarm upstairs, but maybe it wouldn’t have gone off until the situation was far worse in the basement (and I imagine we need to make sure there’s a charged smoke alarm downstairs, too). And, of course, we thought of the kids. Zachary’s room is directly above where the VCR/DVD is. What if this happened in the middle of the night, and the smoke alarms didn’t go off, and things spread? Far-fetched, maybe, but certainly well within the realm of possibility.
Still on the phone, Becca said she’d feel a lot more comfortable if one of the Worthington Fire Department volunteers came over and ensured the area downstairs was safe. I had a number on file at work for chief Rick Von Holdt, who I know from both working at the newspaper and doing business at Graham Tire. Bec called him, and within a matter of minutes he was over assessing the situation for us. We’re extremely grateful for this; Rick took time away from whatever he was doing to go to a non-fire situation and simply do what I’d call a little safety inspection. Meanwhile, he apparently got a non-stop conversationalist in Grace, who at the same time had to be kept in the dark somewhat about the whole situation for fear she’d begin flipping out (for whatever reason, she’s had a few bad dreams about fires). It’s times like this when I’m grateful to live in a small community like Worthington, where people often come to each other’s aid without nary a second thought.
I should add that a technician from the cable company came from the following – and here’s a first, 90 minutes early – to give us a new cable and converter box, just to be safe. No one seemed to know what caused our little scare, though our best guess seems to be a VCR/DVD player that hadn’t been fully operational for a few months.
Hopefully, this little incident will be the last stress-inducing home incident for a while, at least until the seemingly inevitable flooding that awaits us in springtime. And, though I’m far from being the most devout or faithful person, I can’t help but a give a nod of appreciation to the angel – or whatever it was – looking over our shoulders Tuesday night.