I’m still on ski vacation, while Andy drove back LA. He’s enjoying some “alone time,” and promised to take down the Christmas tree and decorations before I get home. I’m having a girl’s week with my friend M. She has a timeshare, and we’re using her points for a place up at Cedar Breaks Lodge. (Don’t ask me how timeshares and points work. All I know is that I owe her dinners, lift tickets, massages, and probably my firstborn. )
The condo is very nice – living room, mini-kitchen, spacious bedroom with a view of the snowy forest outside. The bedroom even has a gas fireplace, facing the bed.
The night we arrived, M and I looked at the fireplace, raised our eyebrows, and said, “Oooo, so romantic!” at the same time. The fire wasn’t running. We promptly forgot about it after we had our giggle. M and I agreed that we would share the king-sized bed because we’re too damned old to bother with the pullout sofa in the living room.
Also, M neither snores nor moves as much as my usual bed partner, which is kind of nice. (If you’re reading this, honey, I’m just kidding! Keep working on those ornaments.) I anticipated a good night’s sleep. By the time I took out my contact lenses and was ready for bed, M slept silently on the window side of the bed. The side of the bed next to the door was mine.
Recent studies have shown that the optimal sleeping temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. I like it a little cooler than that. So I turned off the wall heater next to the bed, snuggled under the covers, rolled on my left side, and fell asleep.
I am a light sleeper. An hour-and-a-half after we went to bed, I heard a noise. It sounded like the popping of flames. I opened my eyes and found the room was no longer dark. I am very near-sighted, but even I could make out the threatening orange glow.
Fire was my first thought.
Fire extinguisher in the kitchen came next, as I rolled out of bed. (Yes, I always check out where the fire extinguisher is when I’m in a new place. You would, too, if you lived with an amazing chef who cooks with abandon.)
I had the bedroom door open before I realized that while there was a fire, it was completely contained by the fireplace.
The gas fire was now on.
What the fuck? I’d been living in LA – land of no fireplaces – for a long time, but last I heard, a person had to physically turn on the gas for those suckers to light.
I shot an accusing look at M. She was still sleeping, still in the same position. I went back to my bedside table, found my glasses, and crept around to her bedside table. Everything these days has a remote. Why not a fireplace?
I did not find a remote. I returned to the cackling fire and checked the mantle. Nothing. I checked the cabinet over the mantle. Nothing but a TV and entertainment system.
I check on either side of the chimney and found a switch. It was in the “off” position.
I flicked it to “on.” A fan whirred to life, blowing the fire’s warmth out into the room. Argh. I flicked it back off.
M slumbered on.
I stared at the demon fireplace, flummoxed. Where the hell was the off switch?
I spent a good ten minutes hunting around the room, looking for a switch.
The fire flickered out.
I decided on a poltergeist, hoped it was benevolent, and went back to bed.
At 2 AM, the fire roared back to life. I woke briefly, cursed the flames, threw off some covers, and went back to sleep.
10 minutes later, I woke to find M putting an extra blanket on me. I growled, “What are you doing? I’m hot enough, thanks to that fucking fireplace!”
M said, “But I thought you turned it on, because you were cold!”
“I didn’t turn it on,” I snarled. “Thing’s got a mind of its own.”
Hot and angry, I got out of bed.
I cased the room again. I didn’t find a switch.
But I did find a thermostat, tucked up behind the chimney. It was set at 70 degrees. I pushed the red setting down to 50 degrees.
The fire died.
I was an idiot.
The thermostat – not a poltergeist looking to thaw – controlled the fireplace.
Fireplaces have apparently evolved since I moved to LA.
M cheered. “Yay! Do you know, when I woke up, I seriously thought there was a fire?”
M grew up in Florida. At least this LA idiot was in good company.