Friday, August 20, 2010

Burning Down the House

HOBB drove up to the bungalow earlier tonight -- when it was still Thursday -- after his new media workshop at Columbia and I stayed in the city because of several appointments tomorrow in Manhattan. The most pressing one is the 9 am drop-off of my brand new MacBook Pro at the Apple store on Broadway so a resident "Genius" can transfer the files from my mega-sucky Acer PC into this sleek, slivery machine which I expect will change my entire life. The purchase of the Mac was inspired by my impending identity as a full-time graduate student at Columbia, in the very school where my husband is a professor.

The thing is, it is nearly 4 am and I am still awake. The grande iced coffee I had at 8 pm might have something to do with it. I was en route to the gym at that hour and needed something to inspire my three-mile elliptical workout. The caffeine worked so well that I was wired even after my sweat-drenched session, so after showering, I wandered down to the 3rd floor of the JCC to check out the Israeli dancing and was surprised to find a party-like scene with dozens of people doing complicated choreography to contemporary and classic Hebrew songs. It was so fascinating that I stayed until midnight, enchanted by the spectacle, talking to people, fantasizing about learning these dances and joining the Israeli dancers as soon as possible, maybe even by next week.

It was well after midnight when I returned home (having stopped at Fairway to buy steak and lambchops and then having walked with a friend up to 96th street) and I was completely famished so I put the meat up to broil and went to turn on the television, a rare treat enabled by my solitude. (If any other members of the Bungalow Family had been around, vigorous negotiation would have ensued and I would have retreated to my room with a grumble and a fashion magazine.)

While I was watching Law and Order, the meat caught fire in the oven. I found out because of the sudden urgent beeping sound the oven was making. Also… the smell of burning appliance that filled the urban bungalow. I rushed to the kitchen, saw the fire and became paralyzed with fear. What to do??? I couldn't remember. Should I google "fires in oven?" I wondered as I stared dumbly at the dancing bonfire behind the glass. I didn't want to open the oven door as I was afraid of flames leaping out, fed by the oxygen...on the other hand, I was pretty sure letting a lively fire burn in the kitchen was a bad idea.

After a small eternity, the fire burned itself out. I breathed a sigh of relief, removed the charred pan and actually ate parts of the lamb chop that had not turned into charcoal.

To calm down after my ordeal, I watched two back-to-back Law and Order episodes, each more disturbing than the next. That morphed into two episodes of a true crime show called Snapped which features women who commit heinous crimes...and almost get away with it. Both episodes last night had to do with women having affairs who kill, or try to kill their husbands.

After a futile fifteen minutes spent tossing and turning in bed, I got up and decided to research what to do if I were to encounter a bear in the wild. This quest for information arose out of my early morning hike with HOBB on the Appalachian trail earlier today, the first twenty minutes of which were spent in abject terror, anticipating an up close and personal bear encounter.

Because the information I found strikes me as both reassuring and helpful, I thought I'd pass it on so others who fear bear encounters might be likewise armed with useful knowledge. Maybe later I'll look up what to do if your oven catches on fire. Or what to do when you can't fall asleep, though I have a solution and this is it.

Close Encounters: What to do

If you see a bear, avoid it if you can. Give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Chances are, you are not in danger. Most bears are interested only in protecting food, cubs or their "personal space." Once the threat is removed, they will move on. Remember the following:

Identify Yourself

Let the bear know you are human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.

Don't Run

You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Bang pots and pans. Use noisemakers. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

If Attacked

If a bear actually makes contact, surrender! Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a bear will break off it's attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. In rare instances, particularly with black bears, an attacking bear may perceive a person as food. If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture, it likely is a predatory attack. Fight back vigorously.


Steven said...

careful with those late night picknick baskets. you're nicer than most average bears.

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