So, the title to this one is pretty self-explanatory. Yesterday I was in my classroom eating lunch and listening to Rush on my computer. There’s no reason to mention that I was listening to Rush other than that Rush is awesome and more people should get into them:
"WEEE AARE THE PRIESTS...OF THE TEMPLES...OF SYRINX!!!"
As I’ve mentioned before, the buildings don’t have central heating in my city, so until about last week classes were conducted huddled around a space heater. The space heater was plugged into a power strip, which was plugged into the wall. When it got warm last week, I unplugged the power strip and put the heater in the corner. At some point during the course of my classes, I finished a listening exercise, and to get the CD player out of the way, put it on top of the (unplugged) space heater.
Perhaps you see where this is going.
So as I say, I was in my classroom yesterday with my lunch and my Rush. I got a “low battery” message on my computer, and looked for an outlet—damned if I wouldn’t enjoy the dulcet tones of Geddy Lee with my kung pao chicken.
So, I plugged the computer into the power strip.
“That’s odd,” I said to myself. “Why is the power strip unplugged?”
So, I plugged the power strip into the wall.
“That’s odd,” I said to myself. “Why is the power strip turned off?”
So, I turned the power strip on.
I went back to my food. A minute or two passed. There was a flicker in the corner of my eye.
Probably nothing. I’m eating.
“That’s odd,” I said to myself. “This chicken smells funny.”
Another flicker in the corner of my eye. I looked up to discover that it had not occurred to me to unplug the space heater, and also that CD players are flammable.
Ohshit. I jumped from of my chair and yanked out the plug. I stood staring kind of dumbly at what had become a small bonfire in the corner of my classroom, and coughed. I realized that the room was filled with plastic smoke, and that I was getting dizzy. I stepped outside my classroom into a large common area.
How exactly does one shout “fire” without causing a panic? In the calmest voice I could muster, I said, “uh...help? Fire?” in an odd questioning sort of tone.
Only in China, where arguments on the street are a spectator sport, would people, when informed that a room was in flames, run toward the fire rather than from it. Before long I was joined by three or four curious moms, and my school's principal.
“Huh.” said the principal.
“Huh.” I said. The flaming CD player cracked and popped merrily.
I ventured an idea forth. “Do you think we should, like, get some water or something?”
Fortunately, a dad nearby was smarter than me. Right across the hallway was a fire extinguisher, which I had previously noted only as a source of amusement at its curiously spelled label (“Fine exTINGguisHer”). Naturally, I was unable to make the link between fires and fire extinguishers. To my defense, it’s hard to think clearly when your brain is full of plastic fumes.
Fortunately, the quick-thinking dad came to the rescue. He ran into the room with the extinguisher, and let it rip. Smoke billowed from the sad remains of my CD player-cum-space heater. It was over, and my classroom was coated in a thick layer of plastic ash and extinguisher...dust stuff.
I stood coughing and blinking, somewhat dazed. The principal told me that it may behoove me to get out of the room before the fumes made me faint.
“Have your class in another room.” he said. I proceeded to go and teach my kindergarteners as if nothing had happened.
In the end, the only damage was to the unfortunate CD player (and probably my brain cells, but who’s counting?). My classroom is good as new after cleaning it up, with the possible exception of a lingering plasticky smell.
The best part? Appropriately enough, I had actually just rewatched “Office Space” the other day:
Don’t touch my stapler.