So, once upon a time in high school, I took a trip to Spain. Because, yes, I am all manner of spoiled even though I currently live in a ghetto apartment where drunks meander by and people view the grass in front of my windows as a garbage receptacle.
Anyway. We were in Sevilla and had checked into our hotel after a long day of sightseeing. The girls I shared a room with, Amanda and Kacy1, were fighting over the hotel phone to talk to a boy down the hall. I was bored, looking to fill time, when I noticed some matches and an ashtray on a small table by the window.
Friends, obviously the Spaniards are not acquainted with the pyro-ways of Midwestern farm children. Otherwise they would have hid these things before they knew I was coming.
I had a candy wrapper in my pocket, so I lit a match (they were blue, by the way, very fancy) and held the wrapper over the flame, watching it shrivel. I pulled out another wrapper, then another2 until Amanda wandered over.
Honestly, I don't remember who first mentioned toilet paper. Or who used the phrase, "Yeah, like a toilet paper bonfire," but I know we both snickered, so we're both guilty.
Each armed with a big wad of the stuff, we started feeding bits of toilet paper to the candy wrapper pile in the ashtray. TP burns fast, so we weren't really getting a "bonfire" effect...which I guess is why Amanda plopped all her TP on top--a pile large enough to spill beyond the confines of the ashtray and onto the tabletop.
Which wasn't cause for alarm, actually; those Spaniards are clever: the table was topped with glass. I knew that the TP would lose steam (or flame, I suppose) pretty quickly and all would be well.
Amanda grew up in the country-ish, in a subdivision with lots of land behind the house, so her pyro tendencies were not as experienced and she panicked.
Like blow on the TP like it's your birthday cake panicked.
Flaming toilet paper is a beautiful thing, folks. It floats upward and hangs for a moment, as if it might just stay there. After that it begins a slow, graceful fluttering toward the floor. It was almost like watching snow falling.
Except for when Kacy realized that she hadn't been watching me closely enough and our hotel room was on fire.
Now I wish that I had held my composure and saved the day. But it was just too funny and if I moved from the spot I had slumped into on the floor, I wouldn't have been able to control my bladder. And we didn't need that problem piled on at the moment, thank you.
I watched helplessly as Kacy--and eventually Amanda once she came around--used clean, wet laundry and various shoes to stamp out the flames and the cinged bits of TP that remained. We decided it would pass as a pretty severe cigarette burn and just moved the table over a foot or so.
We also vowed that no one would tell Kacy's mother, who just happened to be our chaperone and Spanish teacher...and who would be my Spanish teacher for another two years. Kacy confessed later to spilling the beans, but Senora never breathed a word of it to me. So, for what it's worth ten years later, lo siento, senora. Lo siento.
Oh, and a big lo siento to the wonderful people at the Hotel Don Pedro. But it was ugly carpet anyway. And now you know better: hide the matches from the American kids. Good luck and Godspeed.
1 Names changed to protect the...innocent? Well, maybe not innocent, but at least to protect those involved :)↩
2 I like candy. Don't judge; it was all in the name of experiencing a new culture.↩