A tip for fellow travelers: If you’re staying in a (mostly) furnished apartment, make sure you rinse all kitchenware before use. You might ask why this is such a significant tidbit? Well…
We had just come home from class, and after putting a pot of water on the stovetop to boil for pasta, I sat down at the table and was paging through a magazine. My flatmate Lena, who was still in the kitchen making a grilled cheese was talking to me, suddenly pops her head into the living room and through her coughs says, “You really should come smell this. I mean, I don’t want you to but…” And then she’s coughing too much to speak. So I get up and go over to the sink to sniff.
And then I can’t breathe. It’s like invisible hands have closed over my windpipe. This isn’t wheezing, this is nothing; in or out. I back out of the kitchen, and after a quick huddle with the other flatmates, we decide to go for Michael, the Irish guy at the front desk. So I tear down four flights down the stairs, cut across this group of preppy girls coming in the door over to the guard’s desk, where he greets me with a “you’re not allowed back here.”
I explain that we think there’s a gas leak in our flat, and he calmly gets up and accompanies me on the elevator up to the fourth floor. He goes in to investigate, after telling us everything is probably fine, and starts gagging. It’s pretty amazing, though his coughs, his only reaction is, “ooh, you girls got a strong one there,” like we fed him burned soup or something. He comes out at tells us, patiently as any chem. teacher explaining a reaction,
“Your pan must still have bleach on it from before you got here. It must have been cleaned improperly. When you burn bleach it creates fumes. You should have washed it before using it.” Go figure.
So we prop the windows and go out into the hall to keep working on memorizing sonnets and wait until the fumes have diffused. So there you have it. Side note, it’s hard to memorize Shakespeare after you’ve breathed in toxic fumes.