Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Fire Drill

We have fire drills every six months. They always happen at the most inconvenient times. They often occur, for example, during a cold snap when the temperature has dropped down to 40 or in the summer when even the thermostat is sweating mercury. Exposure to the sun can result in emergency visits to the hospital.

Our fire drills are full scale ordeals. The entire three buildings empty their contents. All 5,000 employees flood out the exits and swirl around the parking garage until every square foot of space it taken up by, well, feet.

So it was with real appreciation that I thanked one of our fire drill captains who had the courtesy to tell me to expect a drill soon and I "might want to have a jacket nearby" in the event it happens during a cold spell. That day it dropped down to the 50s. Hanging out near the parking garage when it's 50 is death by exposure.

Now I looked with keen eyes at our fire drill captains. If they even glanced at the exit doors, I was to the elevators so as to reach my car before the alarm went off. If you get to the garage BEFORE the drill you can sit in your car and read, listen to the radio, or just take off for coffee. That was my plan. Get there before the alarm.

Yesterday I saw someone that LOOKED like they might be a captain. They were talking on a walkie-talkie. So I ran to my desk, grabbed a book and headed to the elevators. I got to my car with sweat on my brow, I'd made it. I waited, and read. But alas, no alarm. So I went back to the office.

This morning I saw someone standing by the elevators with bright orange vests. I had already left my computer in the car so I headed down the elevators just ahead of him. I typed away on my computer in the comfort of my car. But, again, no alarm. I drug myself back to the cube.

I had a meeting on the 11th floor at 1:30. The meeting was with a vendor from a large company. Just as we were wrapping up the meeting at 2:00 the alarm went off. The absolute worst time.

Since she was a visitor, I had to explain what this was all about. I told her to follow me, but she stopped to ask me some more questions. I answered patiently, though quickly. But she kept hesitating to go down the stairs I was standing next to. What seemed like thousands of people were flowing past us. Finally, we parted and I left her on the floor looking for another exit. I couldn't wait. It's like the feeling you have when you greet an old friend buy have to go to the bathroom. You really want to talk but I had to get going. I waived her on....

I headed for the stairs but not before all the fat people. There were more fat people going down the stairs then salesmen at a donut conference. I got stuck behind two of them taking a half stair at a time. Kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk. Shish, can you girls speed it up here. I almost ran them over but they would have gone down like a stack of dominoes and that would not have been a pretty sight. Kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk, I followed suit. Will I never get out of the building? It may be my tomb.

"Stairwell becomes tomb for fire drill victim. Details at 11:00."