That one time I almost blew up, literally

Carolyn BertschColumn, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

So . . . we’re having people over. Those four words generally follow with a good dose of cardio and a mad dash to get the place we live in looking like no one lives in it. When you think about it, having people over is a critical component to home maintenance. It’s the only way some projects will ever get done. And thus begins the story about how I almost blew myself up.

As my husband and I deliberated about where the guests would gather and which area of our home had become “too lived in,” we decided to get to work on the garage. Our garage is a purgatory for unwanted belongings. That is where items go when they are demoted from indoor-living quarters. It’s the last stop before the trash. How long an object spends in garage-purgatory depends on how useful it once was, if a purpose, by any stretch of the mind, can be identified for it, or if people are coming over.

With movie-star smiles we descended into our garage like a couple of celebrities on the show Hoarders. I played the role of the professional organizer/therapist and my husband comfortably got into the character of the hoarder. We sorted each item into piles. Keep, donate, discard and . . . hazardous waste.

At the end of the day the hazardous-waste pile was the clear winner and because people were coming over I painfully loaded the ancient, filthy artifacts into my luxury sport-utility vehicle the next morning. There were fluorescent light bulbs, aerosol cans, 20 cans of 20-year-old paint, dead batteries collected like fossils from every battery-operated object we ever owned, and gallons upon gallons of floor strippers and carpet-cleaning chemicals that hadn’t been touched since the new millennium. At that point, it crossed my mind my vehicle might require flammable signage.

Among my toxic passengers was a glass carafe filled with a mystery fluid. Concerned that this could tip and spill all over the beautiful beige interior of my precious Lincoln, I placed it inside a small box and gave it a prominent place beside me in the center console. In order to get to the hazardous-waste site I would have to weave through Sartell’s exhilarating array of roundabouts. It was here that my little companion in the center console jerked forward, reacting to the quick footing of the driver ahead of us. I rescued it just in time and decided I had better hold it the rest of the way. After all, people were coming over and I didn’t need one more thing to deal with.

My sidekick and I arrived safely. I was greeted by men in gloves and safety goggles. Feeling underdressed for the occasion, I made a mental note to buy a hazmat suit for next time. They swiftly unloaded my car, advised me I was sitting on a small fortune of batteries (which it turned out, I was!) and as we said our goodbyes I’d almost forgotten about my little friend. I gingerly handed the box with the carafe inside to the worker who hastily took it from me and yanked the carafe from the box.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Antifreeze maybe? Oil? Some Kool- Aid science project. I really have no idea.”

I was thinking, “Please take it, please take it, please take it!”

He looked inside the box and then back at me like I was crazy.

“These are pool chemicals,” he said.

“OK, you take those, right?,” I said, explaining I don’t have the pool anymore and that chemical had been occupying valuable real estate in my garage for almost a decade.

“Yes, we take them,” he said. “But do you realize if this glass jar would’ve cracked you could’ve exploded?”

Apparently, pool chemicals are extremely explosive and so caution should be taken in the storage of them. Who knew?!

Seven lives down, two to go. Yikes! It turns out I had narrowly avoided death yet again. It’s a good thing, too, because people are coming over. 

Author: Carolyn Bertsch

Bertsch has worked for the Newsleaders since 2015. She and her husband, Matt, and their three children live in Sartell where they also own and operate Four Seasons Window, Carpet and Air Duct Cleaning. Bertsch also stewards the “Reads and Seeds and Other Needs” Little Free Library in Sartell. The “Other Needs” portion of the library functions as a collection site for donations to the Salvation Army where Bertsch serves as a board member. Her other hobbies include volunteering at the food shelf, cooking, baking, and growing a vast array of fruit in her backyard orchard. Bertsch believes that every single person can choose to make the world a better place for someone else and at the end of the day the only question that matters is, “What kind of difference did you make?”

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