by Caroline Wiseblood Meline
It’s been a stressful week because of the bathtub. The first time I went out of the house and left the stove on, the plumber was in my second floor hallway, where there is access to the pipes, trying to fix the trap without having to replace the entire lead ductwork underneath the tub.
I was well into the walk with Stretch, my dog, about a half-mile from home, when it hit me. I left the right front burner on under the cast iron frying pan. I was going to cook some chicken tenders but got distracted when the plumber showed up.
Luckily, I hadn’t put any oil in the pan. I whipped out my phone. I didn’t know his cell number but I had the company’s office number in my phone. So I called the office, and the office called the plumber.
(I’ve had a cell phone for several years, and I still can’t get over the convenience of being able to walk the dog and talk on the phone simultaneously. I know, there are drawbacks, but at that moment, the phone came in really handy.)
The man went downstairs and turned off the stove. When I got home he asked me if I was trying to burn down the house. This was Friday morning.
Later that day, I was due at my neighbor’s house for a fundraising reception for Lynne Abraham, who would like to be Philadelphia’s next mayor. I popped a couple of potatoes into the oven to bake, walked the dog around the block (he gets two walks every day), gave him his supper, and made my way next door.
The gathering was small but nice. I had never met Lynne Abraham and found her to be an easy conversationalist. She was familiar, comfortable and enthusiastic – she put me at ease. A group of us chatted with her, and then she circulated. Eventually, we assembled in a cozy circle.
Dick Malmed, who used to work for Lynne at the Redevelopment Authority, introduced her, and then the mayoral candidate held forth in front of a magnificent old fireplace in the historic home next door to my house. She talked about her background growing up in West Oak Lane, the schools she attended, including Germantown High, her experience with this neighborhood, and why she wants to be mayor.
There was a lot about education, a little about taxes, and some plain talk about her opponents. Lynne Abraham does not pull punches. One guy is in the pocket of John Dougherty, and another is in the pocket of the Susquehanna Group. Only she is independent. She stands on her record of honesty and efficiency.
There were stories about when she was the DA, and about working for Arlen Specter when he had the job and she was just starting out as a young lawyer. Stories about the Redevelopment Authority years, and an anecdote about Frank Rizzo. I was enjoying it.
She finished up in 20 minutes or so and opened the floor for questions. We were into the second question when I remembered the baked potatoes. I never turned off the oven, and the potatoes were still cooking two hours later. I had the oven at 450, so they should have been done in an hour. How did I forget, again? What to do.
I was sitting right in front of Lynne, unable to get up without being unforgivably rude. I tried not to imagine black smoke coming out of my stove and my dog choking on it as I listened to her answer three more questions at considerable length. I gathered my bag to my bosom, perched myself on the edge of the chair, and made ready to bolt the minute she stopped talking, which came in another ten minutes.
As soon as Lynne Abraham answered the last question with finality, I ran out of the house without saying goodbye to anyone and burst into my own house. There was no black smoke and the dog was fine. Amazingly, the potatoes were even edible after baking for two and a half hours at 450 degrees.
I worry that I am losing it – because forgetting about the stove twice in one day is ridiculous and dangerous. All I can say in my own defense is that the bathtub issue had discombobulated me. In addition, all day Friday, while the plumber was trying and failing to solve the problem without a major lead pipe replacement, requiring breaking up the bathroom floor, the sink hole that had opened up on my corner was being repaired very noisily by the Streets Department, after two weeks of cars trying to get around the barriers over the hole by driving on the sidewalk next to my garden and garden wall.
I am left thinking that Lynne Abraham would be a good mayor of Philadelphia, and that we probably will not elect her to be the Democratic candidate in the upcoming primary. This is because the way my life went on Friday, barely avoiding disaster twice, is how Philadelphia goes every day. Only the city isn’t always so lucky.
Caroline Wiseblood Meline is a Germantown resident and writer.