Relay: Smoking Is Bad For Your Health

“Do you smell something smoky?”

Last week my broken dishwasher committed suicide.

Yes, I was home at the time. No, I was not in the kitchen.

I had come home around 7 p.m., read the mail in the kitchen as I fed the cat dinner, and headed upstairs to look at emails and sort pictures in my office.

An hour or so later I noticed my eyes were scratchy and there was an acrid odor of smoke in the air. My house is by the train tracks and if the wind is blowing a certain way there is kind of a train smell, which we “trackers” ignore. But this was making my eyes tear a bit so I went downstairs and opened an outside door to sniff the breeze. I still smelled it, so I called my closest neighbors and left a message: “Do you smell something smoky?”

Then I went into the kitchen.

I was just sort of taking inventory as the smoke detectors were not whooping and the cat was just being a cat. However, the dishwasher, which had totally stopped working six weeks previous, was spewing stinky smoke and its little “on” light was shining green.

I called the fire department.

“No hook and ladder,” I said. “It’s electrical and I am looking at it.” I could hear the fire alarm before I hung up the phone. I live in town and could hear the firemen coming from Cedar Street 30 seconds later. I opened the doors and turned on the outside lights.

My neighbors had heard my phone message and they arrived as the firemen did — very quickly. Within two minutes of my call there were about eight wonderful firemen in full gear in my not- that-big kitchen. Bravo, guys!

By this time the green light (which I had not touched for six weeks) had gone out and, while it was stinky, there was

no smoke spewing and no actual firefighting to be done. Some of the guys set about opening every door and window to air the place out (did I mention it was stinky?), and one limber fella got on the floor to make it so the dishwasher could be pulled out.

They were all sure I had done something and I swore up and down that I had not. A moment later the dishwasher relit its little green light and spontaneously began to once again spew smoke. Well, that got everybody’s attention and the electricity to the house was turned off and flashlights were turned on. More windows were opened and fans were found.

They really had thought I was a crazy lady who didn’t remember turning on her broken-for-six-weeks dishwasher! Ha!

In the dark, with flashlights playing on the soon-to-be-murdered appliance, I explained, again, that it was a 15-year- old dishwasher and that it had stopped working (full of dishes, of course) in the middle of August. I told them that after having a mini tantrum and determining with a neighbor that it did in fact not work, I ordered another one for delivery in October, when I knew I would have an open day to take it, re-learned how to wash dishes by hand, and forgot about the dishwasher . . . until the night it decided to commit suicide. Twice. Once for me and once for the firemen.

It was a horrible disaster averted. I could have been asleep (don’t want to think about it) or gone to the movies or been away (don’t even want to contemplate it).

Finally the fire gentlemen dragged the dishwasher, now totally disconnected, out to the front yard, where it sits waiting for the appliance giant to take it away when the new one is delivered next week.

I should mention here that the totally functioning smoke alarms did not go off during this entire adventure. The fire- folk thought maybe I hadn’t changed the batteries or had disconnected the smoke alarms or done something else dumb, but our kindly judge-fireman checked every single one of them and the batteries were all connected and the smoke alarms worked when prompted, but they were not in the kitchen. One is now.

So what saved it all? My nose, my teary eyes, and the lovely men of the fire department!

What did I learn?

When an electronic thing breaks — hair drier, waterpick, fridge, or dish- washer — unplug it. How do you unplug a dishwasher? I have no idea, but I won’t ever leave a broken one plugged in for six weeks, that’s for sure.

Thanks to the neighbor King family and thanks to the gents of the East Hampton Fire Department. I knew you were cool, now I am telling the world.


Durell Godfrey is a contributing photographer for The Star.