I’m not in the business of making public service blog posts. My goal is to make you laugh and let you know you’re not alone in the absurd world of digital dating. Or, to provide further proof that you’re one of the lucky ones who’s happily paired up—never to return to the insanity of being single and online dating.
I’m going to make an exception this time.
As I’ve written before, I live in an apartment located on the roof of a building on the Upper West Side. Just me, another neighbor and the roof with fifteen floors of many apartments below mine.
Last Thursday night, my youngest daughter Chelsea came over to hang out, do laundry and keep me company. Doing laundry in my building is like cage fighting. Most of the time several machines are out of order. Even when they’re all working (um, almost never) there are too few to accommodate those living in the building. Chelsea has dubbed the laundry room “Thunderdome” for good reason. You’ve got to be a badass to venture down to the basement because it’s the garment version of kill or be killed. (I know, you thought that was Fashion Week.)
Once Chels was able to get all her laundry done, it was late and she opted to sleep on my sofa. She’d been great that night in between loads giving my Norwich terrier Nigel, Pedialyte. He was not feeling well for a few days since I got a new bag of dog food. I was told he might’ve developed an allergy to his food and so I’d been back and forth to the pet store trying to find a flavor of the Blue Wilderness that agreed with his system. He’s not a fan of their salmon, btw. He wasn’t eating or drinking and was lethargic–almost loopy. If he wasn’t any better I was going to take him to the vet the next day.
Chels and I were both asleep around midnight when I was startled awake by an alarm in my apartment. It was ringing and also saying, “Warning. Carbon monoxide.” I stumbled out of bed went into the living room and tried to wake up Chelsea. She normally springs right up, even from deep sleep, but this time she was irrational, yelling, “It’s the battery!” I yelled at her to open the terrace door in the living room as I did the same in the bedroom. It was about thirty-four degrees that night. I also called the front desk while opening windows and told the doorman that the detector had gone off. He said he would send the building superintendent upstairs to check. In the meantime, with doors and windows open, the alarm sounded less often and then eventually stopped. The Super arrived, checked to be sure it wasn’t malfunctioning (it wasn’t) and went to check the rooftop boiler as a possible source of carbon monoxide. The boiler room is on the other side of my bedroom wall. He came back and told me he suspected it was the boiler, had shut it down, but if the alarm sounded again, I should get out of the apartment immediately. He suggested we sleep with all the windows open and that he would call the vendor right away for emergency service.
Here’s where I fucked up: I agreed.
The next morning I had an opportunity to educate myself on carbon monoxide poisoning. Thanks, Google. There is no way I should have stayed in the apartment, there is no way I should’ve accepted that the boiler was the possible source, I never should have been OK with simply calling the front desk and Super and certainly shouldn’t have been satisfied with the information that a vendor had been called.
I should’ve immediately called FDNY.
They have the equipment to find the leak, stop it and most importantly the equipment and training to assess my daughter’s and my condition as well as any pets exposed. They would’ve determined if we needed to go to the hospital or at the very least, given us oxygen. They would’ve been able to determine the particles of carbon monoxide in my apartment and if we were safe to sleep in that environment. The first call should have been to them. Now that I clearly understand how deadly the situation was, the incredibly dangerous level it takes for an alarm to sound, I will never make that mistake again. Sure hope I don’t have to.
By the way, the vendor didn’t arrive until noon the following day. Twelve hours after it happened. John, a smug buffoon boiler repairman came into my apartment with a device that looked like a gun with a long thin hose. It measured carbon monoxide particles. He had a look on his face that made me want to slap him. It inferred that I was overreacting by asking him to test my living space and I only knew his name was John because it was scribbled on a jagged piece of white tape, haphazardly stuck to his device. Probably in case he got distracted and misplaced it somewhere—like when he was caucusing for Trump.
To say I’m furious about how this was handled is an understatement. Believe me, I’ve gone all Erin Brocovich on building management.
There is good news, though. Nigel has rallied and is back to being the odd little dude he’s always been. I did not know that some pets are more sensitive to carbon monoxide than others. With Nigel’s reaction I learned that we were gradually being poisoned over several days. Nigel was the canary in the mine.
The day after the leak I noticed in my FB feed that someone’s cousin and five other family members had recently died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, please, please get one. I would also recommend the kind that doesn’t just sound an alarm but tells you whether it’s fire or carbon monoxide. If it had only been ringing, carbon monoxide would never have crossed my mind. I would’ve surmised it was malfunctioning, as there was no smoke. If I had hesitated, gone back to sleep or even tried to disconnect it, it could’ve been too late. Disorientation happens with carbon monoxide poisoning and I don’t think I was clearheaded enough to figure it out without being told.
Morgan could’ve lost her mother and sister in one night. She said if she had gotten that call, she wouldn’t want to live. Imagine getting that call?
On a lighter note, because we’re a family of complete assholes and several days have passed, I laughed out loud last night while on the phone with Morgan. I talked again about the incident and more information I’d read that day. Yeah, I have a tendency to obsess. By about the third new fact Morgan borrowed one of the best lines ever from Joe Biden and said, “Jesus, Mom! You’re like Giuliani. Every sentence is a noun, verb and carbon monoxide!”
She’s right, I’m a lunatic, but just humor me. Right now, walk over to your device and check to make sure it is both fire and a carbon monoxide detector. If so, and yours uses batteries, replace them. If you don’t have one, get it today.
Seriously, just do it.
Giuliani is “probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency,” he says. “Rudy Giuliani – there’s only three things he [needs] to make … a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11.” Joe Biden
Thank you for raising awareness with this important information Melani. Unfortunately, where I live in South Africa most domestic households don’t even have basic smoke alarms. They are the exception rather than the rule. It would be worth having one installed, for peace of mind. Most importantly, I am so relieved that all is well with you and your family!
Absolutely, Vivella, so worth it. I remember when I briefly lived in Russia, the apartments didn’t even have smoke detectors. Luckily, I had shipped two just in case. They weren’t carbon monoxide detectors, though. Can you purchase one in South Africa? I know they’re not expensive in the U.S. but I don’t know much about internationally. If you can’t, shoot me an email and I’ll send you one from here. Thanks for your comment, Vivella!
Hi Melani, I meant to respond to your kind comment months ago and kept it earmarked all this time, but have been off the radar due to dealing with something that happened to my daughte I am slowly catching up with some things I have neglected! It was so sweet of you to offer to send me a carbon monoxide detector. I wanted to thank you and also let you know that I made enquiries but we dont need them for domestic use here, as most of our stoves are electric, including the hot water geyser. I made some enquiries today and am going to purchase a smoke detector instead for my kitchen which is important – thanks to your reminder for making us aware!
My pleasure, Vivella. It was a scary experience and I’m glad to hear you don’t need a carbon monoxide detector. I hope everything is OK with your daughter. Thanks for writing!
That’s pretty scary, but what really scares me is the vision of you “going Erin Brockovich on building management.”
Yeah, I think they might agree, Magrooder.
Wow, that’s so scary, Melani! To think we could have lost you and your daughter! The fact that Nigel was sick for a while is scary too, because you were being poisoned over a period of time.
Was it the boiler, by the way?
Thanks so much for this public service blog!
Yes, Tim, it was the boiler. I guess it was not properly maintained–although they say they have a record of the maintenance. Hmm, maybe time to fire the vendor? It was scary and especially when I learned all the facts. It had definitely been going on for a while. At least a couple of days–probably longer given that it had to seep through the wall into my apartment and then reach a dangerous level. All is well now, though. At least I think so but will be diligent on followup to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Thanks for taking the time to write, Tim!
Julie Y says
HI Melani, LOVE your posts, always. I am so happy you are all ok!
Thank you so much, Julie! I’m thrilled you enjoy the posts.
Steph Palermo says
Great blog, Melani! I am so happy you all are ok. I love how real you are! Thanks for inspiring me!
Thanks, Steph! I’m always happy when people say I’m real. You inspire me, too!
Wow! I don’t have a carbon monoxide detector but I am getting one this weekend. Thank you for the story and I am so glad you are all safe!! BTW I love all your blogs.
SO glad you’re getting one, Karen! The detectors aren’t expensive and have saved so many lives. I’m also happy to hear you’re enjoying the blog posts! I’m so appreciative that you took the time to write.
So thankful you are all okay.! Give that sweet Nigel a kiss from his first Mom. Btw, he looks fabulous!❤️?
Thanks, Dori! Yes, we’re all OK. He’s the best little guy ever and is adored. Huge thanks for allowing me to adopt Nigel. He’s staring at me now because he I got up too late this morning for Central Park off leash hours so a walk along the Hudson River is what he expects. My pleasure, Nigel.
I’m so thankful everyone is alright! Thank goodness you are atune to your canine and pleased Blue Wilderness or allergies aren’t to blame for Nigel’s sudden illness. I’m sending you both a virtual hug and kiss!