Not being the type to play with matches (I prefer lighters) it's difficult to figure why fire always wants to make friends with me. Yes, I dabbled in candle making for a while and sure, I was in Las Vegas when the Monte Carlo hotel caught fire but that probably had nothing to do with me.
I haven't even written about an incident several years ago where I walked into my brother's high rise apartment to find it engulfed in flames. I had to wake him from a stupor to get him to safety but for now, I'm concentrating on adding my Dad's 80th birthday celebration dinner to the fire story archives.
Six of the nine offspring made it home to pay homage to Dad and we were joined by assorted in-laws, friends and relatives. The plan was for a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant which had a private room to contain our rambunctiousness until we could make it to the after party at my sister's house.
On our way to the restaurant, a snowstorm just getting underway helped make the drive a true labour of love. We arrived to greetings from a world weary waitress with a complexion the colour of waxy buildup. She showed us to our seats and we got to figuring which delights on offer we'd order. I settled on a Szechuan combination plate that included Lemon Chicken. I asked if I could have the lemon sauce on the side and her reply of "If I remember" set the tone for service.
We haphazardly received our meals but spirits remained high through all our funning and everything was excellent. Dinner wound down while the storm raged on, the flickering lights generating more conversation about the storm. I figured if the power went out, so would the electric abacus and there might be trouble figuring out how to pay.
Nearing the end of our meal, the waitress re-entered the room with a piece of cake lit with a single candle for the guest of honour as the lights blinked some more. "Oh, the lights are flickering in here too?" she asked. "Must be the storm" someone answered. "Oh no, there's an electrical fire in the wall at the back of the restaurant but it's nothing to worry about. If you hear sirens or see firetrucks pulling up, don't worry, just enjoy the rest of your meal!". Her exit was far less dramatic than her last statement.
The roomful of confused patrons left in her wake puzzled over what she'd said: "A fire? In the wall? Did she say just say there was a fire in the wall?" "Should we still be here if there's a fire?" "Was she serious?"
A minute or so later, a troop of firefighters stormed into the restaurant with axes and a chainsaw. They looked at us as and quickly sent the manager in. "I'm sorry but the firemen think we should ask people to leave the restaurant, sorry!" he said beating his retreat.
We donned our coats and made a Seinfeldian run for it as my parents lingered at the back of the line. I'm glad I didn't have to push either of them out of my way, that may have looked bad. The smell of smoke was just becoming evident as we slipped and slid our way into the parking lot toward our cars with the other confused patrons.
There seemed to be nothing else to do but leave so we did. Everyone had trouble navigating through the blizzard but we all made it back safely to my sister's place. We had a good laugh at the strange turn of events and much cake and liquor was consumed, my father enjoying the festivities very much.
The storm led to cancellation of my flight home the following day and so I got an unplanned but nice extra day to recover and debrief the celebrations.
The restaurant ended up with a section of wall chainsawed out but the problem was fixed, patched up and they reopened two days later. We checked in on the bill and they knocked 75 dollars from the total for the inconvenience of having our lives endangered.
I made it home the following night and now we're in the middle of a snowstorm here. I really wish I didn't have to work. Anyone got a light?
*Edit: It struck me after reading this again that I didn't clarify that the waitress was Caucasian. It wouldn't really matter although my description of her 'waxy buildup' may have sounded mildly racist as in 'waxy yellow buildup' from an old commercial I remember. I'm never mildly racist, I always go full out.