Monday, January 23, 2012

Did You Unplug The Toaster?

Before leaving the house on vacation when we were kids, my dad would typically bark orders to us to ensure that all the tasks on some checklist he must have kept in his head were completed before our usual pre-dawn departure.

While mom would finish the last minute packing, dad would go "gas up" the car and check the oil and tire pressure.  My sisters and I were left to complete seemingly inane duties from dad's list.

While I no longer recall all the little jobs, I do remember that walking around the house unplugging anything electrical was part of my responsibility. Only the largest of appliances were left untouched. Everything else was fair game, so lamps, clock radios, televisions, stereos, and all small kitchen gadgets made the list.

Even at my young age, I recall thinking that dad's insistence that everything be unplugged was some kind of 1940's era precaution which he must have inherited from his parents that would certainly no longer be necessary in the seventies. Or maybe the tasks were just time filler to keep us kids out of mom's hair or from killing each other in our pre-vacation frenzy, I'd think.

In the first hour on the road, we would be subjected to a litany of questions concerning the items on dad's list:
       "Did you lock the screen door at the back"?
       "Did you remind the neighbours to pick up the mail"?
       "Did you water the plants"?
       "Did you unplug the toaster"?

Not an uncommon phenomenon

It's been a long while since I've thought of dad's list, but the memories all came flooding back to me recently when a friend told me how he spent his Christmas vacation.  He and his family were spending the holidays visiting relatives a couple of time zones away when they received a call telling them they needed to come home immediately. Their house had been significantly damaged in a fire and if hadn't been for a quick thinking neighbour, they likely would've lost everything. Most of the physical damage was contained to the kitchen, but smoke had destroyed a great deal more. The cause? The new toaster in the kitchen had spontaneously ignited. Apparently, the investigating fire official said it's not that uncommon.

Who knew?  Well, I guess dad did.  We can never be too safe or too quick to dismiss the wisdom of our parents.