I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Big Brother.  Not the government.  Not the novel 1984.  (Though I’ve got nothing particularly against either one.)

I’m talking about the CBS reality television show, the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Although I don’t really believe in the concept of guilty pleasures.  I think if a person is living up to their responsibilities and not making themselves an undue burden on anyone else, they have the right to spend their leisure time any way they like, guilt-free.

Reading (or writing!) romance novels. A little Netflix and Magnum Ice Cream. Big Brother.

So even though I don’t feel the need to justify myself, I do want to point out that watching Big Brother may have saved my life.

Allow me to explain.

First, a brief primer on Big Brother:  a group of strangers are locked together in a house with no television, internet, music, reading material, or contact with the outside world for 99 days.  Each week someone is voted out.  The entertainment is pure schadenfreude, as paranoia, boredom, and producer-induced humiliation slowly leach sanity from the contestants.  Every moment is filmed by the hundreds of cameras inside the house.

They have to cook for themselves, clean the house, and wash their own clothes. (And horror of horrors, share a bathroom with fifteen other people, many of whom are men in their twenties).

On a recent episode, one of the “houseguests” unintentionally set fire to the oven while cooking a pan of bacon. As the flames grew higher, the houseguests gathered around and started yelling for the show’s production team to do something.

Actually, all but one was yelling for production to do something. Sam—the woman who incidentally is a little bit nutty but keeps the house clean—ran into the frame and competently put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.

It was a brief and inconsequential moment in regards to the game, a funny filler segment, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If my oven caught fire, what would I do?  I’d like to say that I’d act like Sam, but the truth is I didn’t have a fire extinguisher.  So likely I would’ve stood and screamed like an idiot, panicked liked an idiot, thrown water on the flames (which would have undoubtedly made the grease fire worse), or grabbed Blinker and got the hell out of the place and watched my house burn down from the front street.

I wasn’t particularly thrilled with any of these outcomes.

All that night and the next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. As it turns out, a search of my house revealed that I did indeed have a fire extinguisher in the hall closet by the kitchen, but as it had been installed by the previous owner, it was expired and unlikely to be effective against an actual fire (and would have been ineffective even if brand new since I was previously unaware of its existence).

The next day at work, I asked everyone around me if they had a fire extinguisher in their house. Most people sort of frowned and said they weren’t sure.  Only one guy confidently answered that he had one, knew where it was, and how to use it.

That night I bought four fire extinguishers from Sam’s Club. I installed three in my house—one in the garage, one in the kitchen closet to replace the expired one, and one in the upstairs office.

I decided to practice spraying with the fourth one.

“Don’t spray it in your yard,” my co-worker told me.

“Why not?”

“Trust me,” he said.

As he was the only one who knew where his own fire extinguisher was located, I trusted him.

And thank goodness I did.

If you are as ignorant as I was on this matter, let me assure you: a fire extinguisher makes a holy hell of a mess.  I tried spraying it into my borough-provided gigantic plastic trash can, and still made a mess of the trashcan, my driveway, and my neighbor’s driveway.  (In fact, I spent the rest of the afternoon scrubbing the white chemical stain off my neighbor’s driveway.  As for me, I’ll wait for the next rain.)

So now, if I set the oven—or anything else—on fire, I’m ready. Not that I’m issuing a challenge to the fire gods.  I’d much rather replace all three of these extinguishers in ten years, unused but expired.

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, get one! Order one on Amazon right now.

It could save your life.

Don’t thank me. Thank Big Brother.