22 August, 2008

I Now Know What Boiling Urine Smells Like

One more wonderful thing I can cross off my bucket list.

All jokes aside, I had a rather interesting experience this morning that introduced me to the unique aroma. I have four small kittens you see, and this morning one of them took it upon themselves to pee directly into the surge protector powerboard that my computer was using. I was sitting at the keyboard at the time and I didn't know at first what the gradually louder noise was.

There were a few stages involved: firstly, confusion. What is that? Something outside? The kids are playing the playstation... wait, no, it's a hissing. My speakers? Damn, nope, that's a definite "electronics gone wrong" sound that I've probably heard a dozen times as components enter their death throes. You know the sound - it happens moments before your hard drive dies, or the motherboard fries, or your pc repeatedly gives you useful messages involving three short pips and "Unspecified Hardware Failure. Press F2 to continue, F6 to abort." Yeah, those. Anyway.

I stood up in a massive hurry, worried about being so close to a computer that sounded like it was shorting out. As I looked around the edge of the desk, I realised the sound was coming from behind the computer. What the? Then, OMIGOD, smoke coming from the powerboard... and the glisten of moisture being cooked. I'm trying to remember a time I felt this scared, but nothing quite comes to mind.

Fortunately I was also scared of the house blowing up, so I looked around for some way to turn it off... but I sure as hell weren't touching anything. I grabbed a nearby wooden ruler and flipped off the wall switch with a sigh of relief. Then I ran outside like a chicken and turned off the mains.

The whole room stunk. The powerboard was charred and still dripping with ghastly brown liquid. My son was staring at me and all I could think was, thank Dog I wasn't asleep, or out, or whatever.*

Incidenally, the surge protector did not trip. Its merry red light stared at me while I was trying to identify the cooking sound. (Perhaps it wasn't supposed to, since the power hadn't strictly surged... in any case, I have an Electrical Safety Switch on the mains in case I had been electrocuted.) The powerboard is now hanging (disgraced) in my laundry and will be exhiled to the rubbish. A similar fate awaits my monitor's power cord, the one which was sizzling. I had a great deal of trouble pulling it out of the board, and the appearance once I got a look at it made me never want to use it again. This decision started a manic search for replacement cords.

I've sacrificed having the heater plugged in, as I didn't have another board, and I now lack powerpoints in the vicinity. I found every other kind of cord in my search and was cursing at my lack of a spare power cord... however, it turned up during a second search of random cables and I wasn't forced to steal the cord from my kettle, as I first feared.

For anyone interested, boiling urine seems to have smelled like dirt combined with burning electrics. I'm not sure about the burning electrics part though, since there were burning electrics involved.

~ Elisa

* Dog is not a typo.