Thursday, August 31, 2006

More on Bad Things Happening When C Cooks

Clearly everyone loves a good C-sucks-in-the-kitchen story (I know I sure do!) so here's my first, and probably most infamous, cooking disaster story.

It was 1993, and I was on my first babysitting job ever. I'd just taken the big babysitter certification class at St. Mark's hospital and I got a call from the mom of one of my sister's friends, asking if I could sit while she and her husband went out for an evening. Could I? YES!!! I was so stoked. I must have re-read every single Babysitters Club book I owned (and at that point I think I owned them all) in anticipation of my first real babysitting gig. What activities would I do with the kids? How would I spend my first paycheck? What would I WEAR?

You could say that I was very, very prepared for every contingency I could think of by the time the big day rolled around. I got the full tour of the house (even though I'd been there before) a list of emergency contact numbers, and instructions for how to finish up a project the mom had started with the kids earlier that evening. The project was making homemade potato chips, which was something I'd never done before. My dad left, the parents left, and suddenly I was alone. With the kids. The kids who I was now in charge of. For two or more hours.

I tried not to let them know how much I was panicking right then, and instead suggested that we finish making the potato chips so we could eat them while watching a video. Basically, the recipe called for slicing up thin pieces of potato (which the mom had already done), adding some seasonings, and nuking the chips until they were crispy. This should have been a piece of cake.

Emphasis on the should.

We had made maybe 2 or 3 plates of chips before things went wrong. First I noticed a slightly acrid odor in the air. I remember thinking that the chips we were making were probabaly burning, so I turned off the microwave and pulled out the plate. Even though they'd been in there for over 2 minutes, the chips were still cold and soggy. Now, please remember that I was 12 years old and not exactly a master of deductive reasoning. Adult C would have seen that there was something wrong with the microwave since it hadn't done a thing to these chips after 2 minutes. Teenybopper C just thought "Huh, that's weird," and put the plate back in the microwave. Teenybopper C made the wrong decision.

Maybe a minute after I put the chips back in, thick, black smoke started POURING out of the microwave. I flipped, and told the kids to get outside. The girl didn't listen (this would become a chronic problem during later babysitting adventures at their house) and grabbed a dishtowel to fan the smoke away from the smoke alarm, which had activated. I grabbed the little boy and the cordless phone, ran outside, and called my dad to tell him that he needed to get there RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THE HOUSE WAS GOING TO BURN DOWN AND IT WAS ALL MY FAULT! Then I grabbed the girl and made her and her brother sit outside with me while we waited for my dad.

To this day, I don't know why none of the neighbors came out to see what was happening. The smoke alarm was going off right next to the open door, everyone on the street knew everyone else, and people should have been home at that hour. Who knows. Anyway, my parents just lived a block away, so my dad got there in under 3 minutes, and somehow got the smoke to stop coming out. He probably just did something smart like unplugging the microwave.

I don't remember if we got ahold of the parents right away or not. I think not, since this was in the days before cell phones and they were probably at a movie. I do remember being really scared to tell them what happened when they got home. Fortunately they were understanding, and gave me an extra-big tip for handling things so well. I remember the girl got grounded for not listening to me when I told her to get out of the house.

In any case, I thought that I was done with babysitting for good after that. None of the members of the Babysitters Club had ever started a fire in their client's microwave and had to call their dad to come put it out. There wasn't a section of my Babysitter's Handbook (courtesy of my certification class) that dealt with explaining to parents why their house smelled like icky smoke when they came home.

I think my negative feelings about babysitting lasted a week or two. Then the family called again (they had bought a new microwave) and wanted me to sit for a few hours again. I said okay, and that was the time the little boy almost hung himself with the venetian blinds. I'm tired now, though (and craving some potato chips) so that will have to be a story for another day.


Karen said...


M said...

LOL...I am now officially a lover of Carolyn cooking stories. Remember how the Babysitters in The Babysitters Club always brought the box of "new" toys. I tried this once and I made the mistake of including a large whistle while watching a 2 year old. My ears are still ringing.

C said...

LOL, yes I do remember that! I think I made a few of those toy kits myself before realizing that all the kids ever wanted to do was to watch TV and play in the backyard.