Hejira

tales of a would-be arsonist

february 24. 2000

repeated. repeated. repeated. repeated.I nearly set the South Side of Beech Hall on fire today.

My 3d project is due tomorrow. I was going crazy most of today, trying to finish up the last little touches on it. There was one part of the piece that I wanted to use Sculpey, which is, for those of you who don't know, a polymer clay that comes in many colors and that can be hardened in a conventional home oven. So I made this piece out of sculpey, and took it downstairs to the laundry room.

In the corner was a decrepit little stove that looked like it hadn't been used since about 1988 or so. I mean, come on, how many college students actually cook? Thought so. I sussed out the dial on the oven. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. No Degrees, Fahrenheit and/or Celsius. Was I supposed to guess? Looking back, I realize I should have known that the fact there is no thermometer on the stove was an incredibly bad omen. I set it to between 2 and 3, popped in the Sculpey, and hoped for the best.

The best never happens to me, however.

I went up to my room to kill time during the allotted 20-30 minutes. After 25 minutes, I opened my door and started down the hall. I smelled a faint smell of burning plastic. The stove was two whole floors down. This was not a good sign. I bolted down the stairs, which was hard considering I was wearing these huge clumsy slippers, and nearly killed myself several times trying to get downstairs as quickly as I possibly could.

The laundry room was engulfed in smoke, the smell almost unbearable. I threw open the stove door, the piece of Sculpey was not there. A kid wandered into the laundry room and informed me that the RD, Steve, and several of the RAs had been in there trying to figure out what was burning. I found the piece, or the remains of the piece, in the garbage can, where it had turned into a brown lump, resembling (I'm sorry to say) a piece of fecal matter. How utterly appropriate.

Naturally, I was mortified at how close I had come to making the papers. I imagined something like Seton Hall a couple months ago, I kill all my friends in a dorm fire...christ. I was also afraid I was going to be in deep shit with Steve et al. They did find me eventually, but weren't mad, just wanted to know if the Sculpey fumes were toxic, because, as Dave, one of the RAs, put it, "We really don't want to die."

A good a reason as any.

My life as an arsonist was short lived, fortunately. Never again.