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Super Embarrassing Incident Courtesy of My Two Year Old (And Husband)

Erin Zammett Ruddy

At around 5 p.m. I started getting a whif of something funky in our downstairs room but I couldn’t isolate it. A couple hours later I went into the backyard for some basil and realized that’s where the smell was coming from. I thought it was a dead animal. Nick came out and said it smelled like a gas leak and he went inside to call the fire department. I went back upstairs to cook dinner (pesto) and Nick ran out for a tub of ice cream for dessert (he was craving Ben & Jerry’s--he's got the sweet tooth in the family). 10 minutes later he walks in (with Americone Dream--AMAZING!) and says, “Guess who’s in our backyard?” I went to the window and saw about eight firemen huddled together on our back patio. A massive truck stood in our driveway. I looked out the front door and saw two huge trucks parked on the street with lights ablaze and firemen pacing back and forth with meters in their hands. And there was another truck parked in our neighbor’s driveway and an ambulance backing into our driveway. Now that’s service! I guess they take gas leaks seriously, which is nice to know. But can you imagine what the neighbors thought was going on?! Ack! Well, here’s what was going on: Apparently they’d traced the alleged gas leak back to…the propane tank in our grill. D’oh!

The knob on the grill had been turned on and left on. All afternoon. Which means the gas was slowly leaching out from under the grill cover. Nick immediately blamed one of the kids for touching the knobs and he was, of course, right (we’ll get to Nora’s admission of guilt later). But Nick isn’t innocent, either. He is a master griller and takes good care of his equipment but he does not feel the need to turn off the tank of propane (which is stored under the grill behind closed doors) after every use. I had this step drilled into my head by my father growing up. There’s the basic safety issue (right?) but also, according to my father, spiders like the smell of propane and can crawl into your grill and make nests and, well, I was sold at the mere mention of spiders. Needless to say, Nick and I disagree about this but since he is the griller (and we grill almost every night this time of year), it’s ultimately his call. Still, I couldn’t resist the urge to settle the debate once and for all with the fire safety professionals. So I asked the six or so firemen we were chatting with, assuming the'd handcuff Nick on the spot and...all but one of them said they don’t turn off their propane, either. They laughed and shrugged and one of them said, “I’m with him on this” nodding toward Nick. Hmm. Well, at least they won’t think we’re complete boneheads then. That said, Nick will be turning ours off from now on. Because we have Nora, who cannot be trusted to not touch things, particularly potentially dangerous things, a fact we were reminded of again Monday night.

According to Alex, Nora reached up on the grill as she walked by it and messed with the buttons. It all allegedly went down when our babysitter was bringing the kids inside earlier that afternoon. Alex usually tells the truth and when we ran this theory by Nora, she said she did it—of course she loves negative attention so perhaps she was lying but it all seemed to make sense. Nora loves to touch things she shouldn’t touch. She goes out of her way to put herself in harm’s way just for shits and giggles. For the record, I would not have put it past her to open the doors of the grill and crank the propane on. I promise you I do not overstate her antics. Which is why we never take our eyes off her, ever. And our sitter, who I do not blame at all, is way more cautious with her than we are. Here's what's interesting: Our sitter doesn't remember Nora touching the grill. She remembers Alex touching something on the grill after which she reprimanded him. She does not remember seeing Nora near there at all. The great unsolved mystery! 

Anyway, Nick and I were so embarrassed but the firemen were awesome. So nice and gracious and didn’t make us feel like the idiots we clearly were. One of them said the gas really didn’t smell like propane so it wasn’t our fault that we didn’t immediately identify it (and save them the trouble of sending in the troops). And because there were so many cool fire trucks and firemen on our property (and because kids love fire trucks and firemen) I couldn’t resist bringing the kids down for a look-see. They had been lying up in our bed watching a little tube before books and bedtime so we ran up and told them what was going on and they came down a little nervous and a little excited. They both got struck with super shyness (they refused a tour of the truck and wearing one of the guys’ hats—can you imagine?!) but I did get them to pose for the above photo. It’ll be a Ruddy classic.* Unfortunately, I had yet to brush their hair from their baths so they look a little disheveled. Classic Ruddy.

I just wanted to share this story with you guys because it pretty much exemplifies what goes on here. Never a dull moment in this house and a few lessons learned. 1. Shut off your propane. 2. Don’t forget that Nora is not to be trusted, ever. 3. Alex is of questionable trustworthiness. 4. Always donate to your local fire department (we get our Christmas tree from them every year, too!). 5. Keep your hair brushed because you never know when a photo opportunity is lurking around the corner. AND, of course, I need your thoughts. As Labor Day approaches, I’m curious: Do you (or whoever handles the grilling in your house) shut off your propane after every use?

*We will file this gem with the other super-proud day when a nine-month-old Alex dialed 911 (not on purpose) and then we left the house before the call-back came so when I returned home 20 minutes later there was a police car in my driveway and a cop casing the joint. Classic.