Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Caught My Bistro Chair On Fire With the Sun


Dear Nick, Jake, Zach, Abigail, Jonathan,

   Apparently, we had a house fire upstairs that I just discovered at noon today.  
   Remember how at Christmas, the bubbling runoff from my cranberry pie ignited the oven and tripped the upstairs smoke-detector and we couldn’t get it to shut off?  Well, we forgot to slide the battery-pack back inside the alarm.   
   I know what you are thinking: ‘We TOLD you not to make the woodstove a blast-furnace by leaving the door open then distracting yourself with Netflix and other acts of unemployment.” 
   But that is not what happened. The fire wasn’t anywhere near the woodstove.
   The fire took place up in our sunroom, where the sun shines, apparently even during the winter solstice, when the sun’s angle changes, so that during today’s early morning of utter cloudlessness, its rays penetrated the magnifying glass I had impaled as a decoration inside a planter on the bistro table.
   I always wondered if those stories were true. The ones about little boys who use magnifying glasses to burn ants.  I thought it was an urban legend.
   Well, seeing what the sun did to a hardwood bistro chair-back, I don’t want to think what it would do to ants.  I’m sure they just spark up – snap – not even a puff of smoke.  Although I bet if you lit up a whole colony, it’d be an impressive Fourth of July spectacle.
   Anyway, I was watering plants this morning when I noticed the maple bistro chair was sporting six diagonal scorched gashes.  Each gash represented an ignition site made by the sun as its rays shone through the planter’s magnifying glass.  As the sun moved on in the heavens, the flame would lose its heat-source and sputter out, leaving a gash, then a new flame would spark up at the next ignition-site a quarter of an inch away.
   I suspect this is how the Incas first learned to tell time:  they set a piece of quartz in a philodendron pot, or papyrus, and as the sun passed by, the magnified rays would ignite a  maple block serving as the face of a rudimentary clock, and the flames would mark the hours as they progressed across its surface.
   Using the Inca method, I’d say we had about four hours of sunlight blasting through my plant d├ęcor today.
   I rubbed at the black slashes on our chair-back and my hands smelled like the outdoor fire pit.  In fact, now that my nose is attuned to this smell, the entire sunroom smells like a fire pit.  Of course, that could just be a brain tumor. 
   Do you think our house insurance covers acts of flammable home decorating? I say yes.  Isn’t the sun an Act of God?  (Although a magnifying glass is an act of Science – but Mary Shelley would remind us that the best transcendental thinkers of Great Britain hotly debated the nature of God and Mankind, of Science and Nature.  And didn’t Nature and God always win?  Ergo, my fire was an Act of God.)
   I am calling our insurance company now.

***************
   Okay, so I just got off the phone with the adjuster.  In a heavy Confederate accent, she said, “May-um.  You have GOT to be kiddin.  Have you never heard of using a magnifyin’ glass to burn ants?” 
   I told her that was an urban legend invented by Spielberg, so she told me SHE used to burn ants with a magnifying glass.
   I explained I had a sociology degree and that two of my children were psychology majors, and that as far as I could tell, this was classic behavior of a psychopath.  “Burning ants is gateway-arson.  It's the stuff that hooks Serial Killers.”
   This is when she explained, “Sweetie, I’m sorry but we don’t cover acts of just plain dumb.”

   “Besides,” she added, “you have a HUGE deductible.  Your chair is not worth $5,000.  Why don’t you put the other chairs in the same spot so the sun can distress ‘em all equally?  From the photo you emailed me, I think a whole set’d look lovely.”
   So before I do this, I would like your opinion.  Please review my chair-back scorches, below, and tell me if I should do the same to the other chairs.

Sun-Enhanced Chair
Love, 
 Mom  (aka 'Icarus') 

Jonathan:  Exciting fire news.  Can’t wait to see the carnage in person. (Did you slide the batteries back in the case yet?) Off to a meeting --
  
Jacob: After I got over the initial relief that something worse didn’t happen, I am laughing, picturing the tiny bright dot of super sun slowly tracking along the room. (Please slide NEW batteries into the alarm-case.) I have a teleconference --

Me:  Hey – you guys all have gmail. Are you noticing the gmail robots are analyzing our emails then sending what it thinks is appropriate advertising? It is now sending me ads for a FIRE SALE, a Glass Sunroom, a Gas Fire Pit, plus life insurance. (Also I can get Two-For-One on a battery-operated “toy” they’ll mail postage-paid in a discreet brown wrapper.)

Nick:  And that’s lunch.   *unsubscribe*

Me:  Wait, Nick, no one answered my question about scorching the other chairs.  :( I am getting a new family and asking their opinion--

Abby:  Mom, the refund expired on this family, so you’re stuck with us, along with your single scorched chair.  Do NOT scorch any more.  Please put the magnifying glass away, inside the buffet drawer, away from any light source, and go out and buy fresh batteries at a store so you know they are new.  Do this now.  I’m off to class --

Me:  Hey, Zach, I didn’t hear from you. What do YOU think?

Zach:  On the road, Ma.  Buy’g batts 4 U on lunch-hr. Will drop by Dad’s office, along w/Walmart, Pier 1, Target Employ’t Apps 2 keep U safe.  ;(  Z

[You know, Moms aren’t supposed to have favorites…  but I have to say, Zachary is always lookin out for his.  ;)  XOXO & <3 2 Z]