That time I almost burned down my workplace

My life has been peppered with what I affectionately call Lucille Ball Moments.  A rather major one occurred when I worked at as a data processor at a local company.

One afternoon I entered the break room and threw in microwavable popcorn packet. Without much thought, I set the time and the oven whirred to life, my popcorn pirouetting in its illuminated cavity.

My friend and coworker Martha entered the room for her break and we sat at the long tables and talked while my popcorn processed.  Midway into our conversation, another co-worker walks in, points to the microwave and cries, “What’s going on there?!”

Martha and I glanced to see my forgotten popcorn bag ablaze in the microwave. Quickly I opened the oven, seized the burning bag and flung it into the nearby double sink. Upon dousing the flames with water, the room immediately filled with smoke and the stench of burnt popcorn.

As the smoke increased, Paul exclaimed, “I’ll open the door to the outside before the smoke detectors go off!”

Too late.

The smoke detectors buzzed as we fanned the smoke out into the evening air. Ever calm in an emergency,  Martha offers to tell our supervisor, Linda, that everything is under control. When she returned, she said, “Peni, the EMERGENCY lights are flashing.”

By now my break is over, so I slink back to my station and diligently resume processing charity donations. My station was right next to the break room door, so Linda and her supervisor and still another supervisor descended upon the break room with oscillating fans in hand.

One of the supervisors knelt down beside me at my station and asked quietly, “Did you walk away from the microwave and forget about it?”

“No, not really,” I confessed. “I was right there the whole time.”

No damage was done and the microwave continued to work, but for weeks afterward I was known either known as Jiffy Pop or Jolly Time–take your pick.


white oven in brown wooden rack
Photo by Mike on

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