Smoke Signals.

Weirdly one of the things I miss about my old office.

So my wife was trying a new recipe for pan-seared scallops which created enough smoke that it set off the smoke alarm, which started the dogs barking, so I ran to shut off the alarm and even when I finally got the right code punched in there was still lingering smoke that just restarted the entire process, and in the midst of all this the security company called to see if it was a real emergency, and while my wife was on the phone with them trying to explain that everything was all right over the sound of barking dogs and the alarm going off again and trying not to burn the scallops she got cut off and they had to call back while I was punching in the cancel code for the fifteenth time and even though she’d confirmed everything was all right the first time a fire truck showed up in front of our house five minutes later so I got to run outside in the dark and tell a couple of firemen that everything was fine and that they wouldn’t need the axes they were carrying unless they really wanted to cut down the shagbark hickory tree in the front yard that drops nuts all over the driveway every fall which gives new meaning to the expression “it drives me nuts”, but that’s another story.

On the bright side all this happened while it was still warm and the flashing lights of the fire truck were all the fireworks we needed for New Year’s Eve.

But it also reminded me of how one of the things I weirdly miss about working in the office is the occasional fire drill. And in spite of having worked in the same building for almost thirty years, not counting pandemic time, we’ve never had an actual fire in the building; they’ve always been drills—knock on Formica since there’s very little wood in our office. There was the time in 2008 when the building that housed the former Italian restaurant Mario’s, two blocks over, which had been closed for a few years, burned, and pretty much everyone in my building gathered in the parking lot to watch it.

Fire drills were always kind of fun in spite of the fact that everyone seemed to know they weren’t real emergencies and would form groups in the stairwells, standing around talking, which made it hard for those of us who wanted to, you know, get out of the building. Once we were out we’d go to our designated emergency check-in spot in the parking garage and then I’d go get coffee or just go for a walk since only the fire department could shut down the alarm and it would be a few minutes before they’d arrive.

The one annoying thing is we never had a fire drill late in the day. Just once I’d have liked to have one, say, fifteen minutes before quittin’ time, because that’s about how long it always takes to get out of the building—I hope it would be faster if we had a real emergency even though I suspect some people would still stop to talk in the stairwell—and I could check in and just go straight home. But they always had to be held around ten in the morning which, admittedly, is a pretty good time to go get a cup of coffee or just take a break. Although I’ve never come back from a fire drill at work to pan-seared scallops, which made having one at home all the more worth it.

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    Chris, I love all the smoke signals you send up through this blog. I wanted to tell you that the hospital where I work has way too many fire alarms/drills at all hours of the day and night, and the most memorable one was a Thursday evening when we were in the middle of a therapy group. We continued with the group as best we could outside before we went back in to the group room. Those fire alarms really drive me up the wall.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3303: What are you looking at?My Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you, Ann, for reminding me of the semester I was in college and the building fire alarm system had something wrong with it so it went off several times a day and night, driving so many people up the wall some suggested we’d be better off taking the risk of not knowing if a real fire started. Too many false alarms can be almost as bad as the real thing.


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