Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Flashback: Touch Wood

Yesterday, I found a collection of travel stories and poetry that my college study abroad group put together nearly six years ago. I had so much fun reading through everyone's work, and reading my own, that I thought for my Flashback Friday post today, I'd share one of my pieces with you all.

This is a story about an event that happened two weeks into my study abroad semester in England. It's all true. A week after it happened, I was in the Dublin airport, talking with friends about the differences between American vs. British life, and this incident came up. And the silent (and handsome!) Brit sitting in the seat next to me, actually had the audacity to snicker. That's right, he laughed at me.

Turns out, that snickering Brit would end up my husband, and if it wasn't for this embarrassing story breaking the ice between two strangers sitting next to each other in the airport, Will and I might not have spoken to each other at all.

So enjoy.

Touch Wood
By Marisa Myers

“Tell us about your worst bad-luck experience,” the man with the microphone said, his smile large and professional, perfect for his job as a TV presenter. I glanced at the cameraman, hoping he had not yet started the tape rolling, not wanting to be filmed unprepared.

My mind had drawn a blank. Worst bad-luck experience? I knew I had one somewhere, but it was only moments ago that I had said to Crystal, as we walked past the Bath Abbey doors after an afternoon of shopping and travel planning, “I want to be on TV.”

And there I was, standing in front of a camera. I was being interviewed for a Friday the 13th special that would be on TV the next day, just in time for the superstitiously cursed day and, as luck would have it, my birthday. This was a wish come true; quite the opposite of a bad-luck curse. I was in England, thousands of miles away from home, and loving my study abroad adventure -- A bad-luck experience just would not come to mind.

Crystal knew just what to say, having had a run-in with some dog poop only a few days before, and in her socks no less. But I just shook my head, my mind still blank. I knew I could say that I would be sick on my birthday. I'd had a cold for the last few days. But the Lemsip in my bag would take care of that, so I said nothing of bad incidents and bad-luck jinxes. Instead, I smiled into the camera and declared proudly that it was my birthday and, as I was born on Friday the 13th, bad luck never strikes me down.

I should have touched wood.

In the kitchen preparing coldwater crackers with delicious, smelly cheeses, I spoil myself before taking my medicine and going to bed early. I'm filled with the hope of making myself better before my birthday. As I stand there, with the kettle on and my Lemsip, in its powdered form, sitting in a mug on top of the counter, I realize for the first time that I am truly happy in my foreign home.

Living with a host family is difficult at times, especially since I do not understand the appliances and electrical equipment. As I was just able to figure out how to work the stove top, I am now feeling comfortable and calm. So comfortable, in fact, that I am completely unaware of the billowing, black clouds of smoke coming from the stove top and filling the air behind me. That is, until I turn around, in the hope that the kettle is boiling, only to discover that the kettle is not only boiling, but... burning.

In a panic, I reach for the handle to lift the kettle up and move it in order to see what is causing the smoke. Unfortunately, the handle seems to be the only thing that can be lifted. The entire kettle has melted into the stove and the plastic bottom is stretching in long, gooey globs.

I turn the stove off and look around, hoping that the blackness of the air is only a mirage and the hideous stench of burnt plastic is just a side effect of being sick.

Because that is exactly what the smelly mess is: burnt, melted plastic.

And it has to be a joke, right? A bad dream even, because who would make a kettle out of plastic? Unfortunately the reality sets in, but being a professional at stupid kitchen mishaps (although I had never had difficulty boiling water before), I know just what to do. I immediately get to work, determined to open every window and door in the house in order to clear the smoke.

I reach for the kitchen window, pulling the handle and pushing the handle, even twisting the handle and yelling in frustration because nothing is happening, only to give up and move onto the kitchen door. This time, I am triumphant, although my triumph is short lived. The door leads to a small sun room, which has its own door leading outside. And that door, as my luck would have it, is locked.

I run from the kitchen, through the living room, and up the stairs to
my rented bedroom. I know how to open my own window and figure that it will be my best bet. And, after the air begins to clear, I can finally work on finding keys to open the windows and sun room door. It takes a few minutes to open the doors and windows, but once the black air dissipates to a soft grey, I decide to check out the stove top and kettle.

I want to pass out when I see what I've just done. The kettle is a melted glob on the stove top, the oozy plastic hardening as it cools. I grab the kettle handle and another puff of smoke comes out from inside of it, but I ignore it and focus my attention on getting the kettle out of the house and into the front garden. Only then can I assess the damage to the actual stove.

Perhaps “hysterical” is too strong a word to use when describing myself at this point, but hysteria sure is what I feel as I begin picking the pieces of melted plastic off the stove top. I hope with all my heart that the incident has not actually destroyed the stove top, the expense of which is not within my budget. The sick feeling in my stomach prepares me for the worst. The kettle will definitely have to be replaced, the stove top just might have to be replaced, and I realize that I will probably be evicted. After all, what host family would want to keep a guest who has done something like this?

I know now what I have to do. My unsettled spirits can only be cured by a call home to mom (who feels more like “Mommy” as I become more and more desperate). I dial the number, my fingers crossed that she will answer. When she does, I break down.

“It will be all right,” she says when I have finished sobbing the story out to her. “The kettle and the stove can be replaced. I will help you take care of everything. Just give me a call when the damage has been assessed to let me know how much it will be.”

Despite the panic in the pit of my stomach when thinking of telling my host family about the incident, I'm feeling better. And when my host mother comes home from work she just laughs.

“The kettle is electric. All you have to do is push the button to turn it on,” she says, disbelief that I would be such a moron, plain in her eyes.


“And the hob will be all right. It was old anyway. Nothing to worry about.”

Well, that’s a relief.

“So, I am going to be on TV tomorrow,” I say, rolling my eyes. “I am going to be on camera, smiling like an idiot and announcing that nothing bad ever happens to me.”

We laugh at the irony of the entire situation, and she says to me, “Touch wood.”

I really should have.


Do you have a flashback of your own that you want to share? Hop on by Tia's blog at for some flashback fun.

It is fun. It really is.



Alyssa S. said...

Sorry to say, I'm with Will...I would have laughed...out I just did...if I overheard you tell that story. It's funny...mostly because it sounds like something I'd do. I think it's a great piece and definitely one worth sharing :)

Crafty Mama said...

That's a great story! I would have probably giggled if I heard you tell it in person, too.

Tia Colleen said...

I want to read it, I really really do, but its late and my eyes are stinging between blinks. When I'm wide awake and not ready to pass out in this uncomfortable wooden chair, I'm going to come back and read it.

I guess I didn't need to leave a comment saying that, did I?

Tia said...

You're a great story teller! And how fabulous that story brought you and your husband together :)

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