August 20, 2005

I've Seen Fire, and I've Seen Rain

IT'S BEEN A BUSY past few weeks up here in New Hampshire. Gad. Did I mention there was another fire at my building? Don't worry -- everyone and everything is all right, and it was a tiny, run-of-the-mill nothing-to-it fire (Just like the last one). But God, there was drama for a little bit!

OK, so dig this. It's 3:15 a.m. on a weeknight. The fire alarm suddenly went off, and woke me from a perfectly sound sleep. Somewhat annoyed, I got up and went about getting dressed. Having been through this routine before, I knew the only folks who could shut off the alarm system were firemen. Therefore, I knew I would have to leave the building, and I was not about to do so without getting properly dressed. (It can be a long and unpleasant wait outside sometimes).

So, as I was putting on my work clothes from the day before, I smelled a faint bit of smoke. As I went out into the hall, I noticed the smoke smell was a bit stronger, but I didn't think too much of it. Then I went outside and joined my neighbors, and did what apartment-dwellers do when their building's on fire: wander around the structure and try to find the blaze. After finding it, my neighbors moved their cars (cleverly, I was parked away from the building).

Of course, it was the apartment next to mine which had the fire. You could see puffs of smoke coming out of a vent, and it seemed like there was smoke in the back bedroom. Then, my Hero Neighbor who lives downstairs noticed it, as you can see in this dramatization:

HERO NEIGHBOR: Hey! That guy's not out of his apartment yet!
ME: Shit!

The next thing I knew, I was following my Hero Neighbor back into the burning building ... smoke-filled building ... building in which a tad of smoke was present, but which was still really foul smelling and bad for my sinuses.

When I first mentioned this story at work, everyone seemed very impressed, but I do need to reiterate to everyone that I was and still am embarrassed about my barely-adequate performance during this whole episode. I wasted two or three good minutes standing around like a dumbass, and it was only the selfless action of my Hero Neighbor which jogged me into following his lead.

Anyway, we went back into the building, and the smoke was more noticeable when we reached my floor. We began pounding on the door to the apartment next to mine and shouting; no luck. After 30 seconds of pounding, I went out to tell folks to alert the complex manager, while my Hero Neighbor kept banging against the door.

A minute later -- it could have only been a minute -- I went back inside. The manager had been notified and was on his way, but my Hero Neighbor had succeeded in rousting the man inside the apartment next to mine. After that, I did one last check of the building, pounding on doors and shouting and what not.

Now, you have to understand that the whole episode had gone on for several minutes at this point. The fire alarm system in my building is so loud that it could serve as a backup trumpet on Judgment Day. There was lots of moving about, shouting, and general alarm on the part of residents. One could easily smell smoke in the building, at least I thought. So you would have thought people would have FLED THE AREA AT THE EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY.

As I'm on the basement floor, pounding on doors and what not, a couple in one of the apartments opens the door and asks, "Is there really a fire?"

Honestly, this was the first time I'd screamed in like -- I don't know, a long time -- but in tone and volume, my shout in the affirmative was on par with that from a memorable scene in "Ghostbusters." ("Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!")

Anyway. I screamed at them, they disappeared back inside the apartment, and reappeared 10 seconds later. I then calmly informed them of the situation and made sure they got out of the building. As they left, the firefighters arrived.

As it turned out, it was not much of a fire to put out, if it even ever got to that point. I later learned the guy who lives next door to me works late, and he had come home from work tired. He apparently fell asleep as his dinner was cooking on the stove. That's something that can happen to anyone, I guess -- but the whole episode reinforced to me how important it is to keep an eye on the stove while cooking, to say nothing of leaving the building when the fire alarm sounds.

As for the rain -- well, that happened just this Thursday. Basically, there was a tiny water leak from the apartment above me and it caused a small drip through a hole in the ceiling above my shower. No big deal, but cause for consternation and annoyance.

It was worth it, though. For one thing, I'm getting my bathroom repainted. Plus, when I spoke with Simon from Jersey about it, he expressed his sympathies and suggested the title for this very entry, which I thought both clever and fitting. Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it'll turn your head around.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at August 20, 2005 01:15 AM | TrackBack

Man, that sucks.

Posted by: Jesse at August 20, 2005 02:37 AM