Woop woop, it’s the sound of the police. Or is it the sound of the fire brigade coming to rescue two girls from a caustic disaster?
Last night my housemate was doing a bit of spring-cleaning. We’ve had a bit of a pongy drain, so we came to the conclusion that the best way to sort it out was to pour caustic soda down it.
This seemed like a great idea until I heard sounds of panic from the kitchen. I ran in and the sink appeared to be melting away as if Mount Vesuvius had shed lava onto it. There were fumes everywhere and our beloved kitchen stank.
I was a bit alarmed about this because once I read a poster someone in my old office wrote about bleach. It was called ‘THE DANGERS OF BLEACH’ and had all sorts of scary facts about what it can do to you. And I know caustic soda isn’t bleach but it is quite a potent chemical, and also the Sainsbury’s bottle said things like if we tried to pour cold water onto the caustic soda it might blow up in flames!
I didn’t want to explode anyway, so I phoned 999.
Which might have been dramatic, but I wanted advice. Sort of like the NHS Help Direct number, but for caustic soda emergencies. I was genuinely concerned my housemate and I might combust.
Anyway, I got put through to the fire department and I spoke to someone who – with hindsight – was a bit of a moron. I only wanted to chat to her about how to deal with the caustic soda eruption – sort of like I had done with a plumber last year, who had taken me through the process of unblocking the sink as if helping me to deliver my own baby.
I explained the sitch to the phone person. I told her about the pongy room, the flames of –industrial – fury and the crumbling sink.
But instead of just telling me we probs would survive to tell our grandchildren about our caustic misadventure, she said: “I think we should send the firemen round.”
NOOOO, I insisted several times – explaining that such course of action would be too dramatic. I started thinking about cats in trees that might be rescued more than us in our house (and burning people. I know… ARGH).
Yet she told us she now had no choice but to send the fireman round.
For two excruciating minutes we waited for the firemen to arrive. I did think that they’d be arriving in a little car… but as I went outside in my pyjamas and crop top that no one should ever see, there it was.
A MASSIVE FIRETRUCK ILLUMINATING MY WHOLE STREET.
The lights were flashing and out came four big men in uniform. It was like a mildly erotic nightmare. I could see in their faces how excited they were to come and put out the blaze. And I was going to have to tell them that there was no blaze. Nothing, but a very clean sink!
They marched towards us, and I just stood there in my pyjamas and mumbled: “Urm, there was like some caustic soda in our sink, and it was bubbling, and we were scared.”
I’ve never seen someone look at me like I was so thick, then look to their colleagues like ‘oh my God, she’s so thick’.
A couple of them came into the house to make sure there really was no fire, and we all stood there and looked at the sink for some time, and I felt a bit like my dog when he eats something he shouldn’t have eaten.
“Yeah, that’s caustic soda for you,” said one of the firemen.
And we apologised and said that we had never wanted four strapping firemen at our house, and they were on their way.
As they left we felt ever so mortified and had to console ourselves with cups of tea and bad television.
I thought I wouldn’t want to tell anyone about this traumatic experience, but then it got me thinking all about emergency services. In recent weeks I’ve read loads of posts by people complaining about increased working hours for doctors, and how many people waste time on the NHS yada yada yah.
So much so that I now have ‘waste guilt’. I made this term up myself and it basically explains how one feels a bit bad if you accidentally waste the emergency services time and they send a massive fucking truck to your house. You worry about the people who might have really needed the service, and also if there will be karmic consequences.
But then I’m writing this because:
1) I have noticed that fire services do not seem to have a non-emergency service. What we could have really done with in that time is a ‘101’/’111’-esque number to allay our neuroticism.
2) I feel like the phone person was really at blame. We explained the situation to her in the same way to her as we did to the firemen, yet she sent them out. If the firemen could work out they weren’t really needed, surely she could have too?
The sink is ok now. I’ve never seen it look so clean, in fact.
But my conscience feels as dirty as a student mug.
Still, I console myself that we were just two girls, with one cup (of caustic soda) – who experienced a slightly overzealous emergency service.