15 March 2011


"Do you smell something burning?"

"Huh? Whaa..."

"I smell something. Been smelling it for an hour."


If it had not been 4:45am when this little scene started, I might have seemed more engaged. More interested. More coherent.

As it stands, I sat up and rubbed my eyes, and then sniffed.

"Hey-- what's that--"

"Smell? Yeah. That's what I was saying."

So we hop out of bed and go padding around. There's a strange semi-familiar burning smell hanging in the air, but it's not a burning wood or paper smell. It's definitely apparent in the bedroom, but not there in the bathroom (behind the closed door).

It's there in the hallway, but not in the utility room (behind another closed door).

Wife goes upstairs, says she smells it plainly in the hallway, yet in none of the rooms where the kids are sleeping (gain, behind closed doors).

I smell it in the den, and in the kitchen as well. It's not the coffeepot, nor the microwave or oven or cooktop. Not the fridge motor.

"No smell in the attic," wife whisper-shouts from upstairs.

"Good," I mumble and yawn. "So what the hell is it?"

I lean down, yawning again, hands on the countertop.

It's hot. Strange abnormal weird hot.

The dishwasher.

I note the "DRY" cycle is still running. I started the washer as I went to bed around midnight-thirty, and here five hours later the DRY cycle is still cranking?

I open the door slightly, and am immediately hit by the smell. It's like crayons melting on the stove and on the verge of igniting.

There's no flame, so I pull the door open. It's like an oven-- likely 250 degrees, maybe more.

I peek in and laugh. Anything made from soft plastic is... well, gone. Perhaps not totally gone from this universe, but surviving now in only a colored shadow on the floor on the washer. Anything made from Type 1 plastic -- which includes the caps to the sport bottles, a snap on lid for the dog food can, a plastic baby spoon, and two cutting boards -- has been liquified. Blobs of colored goo on the floor of the cabinet show where the melted plastic dripped, and the cutting boards have fused onto the floor and lower rack in a molten mess. In the back corner, there's a charred black stain where a heavy blob of cutting board had been dripping down to contact the heater coil.

None of the control buttons respond on the washer, so I reach into the undersink cabinet and yank the power cord, killing the wounded beast. I take the racks of steaming hot dishes into the backyard to cool and air there, spritz some Lysol into the air to slapfight with the melted plastic stink (so now we have a funky "white linen / molten crayola" stink working in the house), and then The Wife and I crawl back into bed for the final 45 minutes of sleep before Yet Another Day In Paradise pounces on us like a perching puma.

The family gets up and heads out to visit sis-in-law and the sideshow at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Me? I'm now appliance shopping and installing today.

I don't think Billy Wilder done it this-a way...."
thermoplastic fantastic B