Fire drills bring out interesting aspects of people.
The opening of my cubicle directly faces one of two fire exits on our floor. During yesterday’s fire drill, I felt as if I was entertaining – there were dozens of associates clustered around my desk, awaiting word from the droning alarm system that we could return to our desks, rather than flee in terror down the stairs. I felt as though I should be whipping hor’deurves, as if fresh from the oven, out of my file drawer.
A heavy-set woman with dazzlingly long curly hair, who I did not recognize, leaned against the wall across from my cubicle. “Probably another drill,” she sighed in my direction. “I hope they don’t make us take the stairs.”
We are three dozen stories above the ground.
A woman’s voice broke into the pre-recorded pre-alarm alert that was droning over the loudspeakers; “We are investigating the cause of alarm. Please remain at your fire exit.”
Associates continued to queue up for the fire door, leaving the sighing woman at the front of the line. She turned, to address her queue: “Did you hear her? She sounded nervous.”
I turn back to my monitor to clean out my inbox. Two minutes of pre-recorded pre-alarm alert later a man’s voice broke in, repeating the previous message to word for word.
“They wouldn’t let her get back on; she sounded nervous. Do you hear sirens in the background? I heard sirens.” The woman smiled brilliantly while fidgeting madly with her silver bracelets.
Shortly after, from the loudspeaker, “The Philadelphia Fire Dept is on scene so that we may issue an all clear.”
“You know, they sent them back to their desks from the elevator lobby in the World Trade Center.” She glance from the line, to me, and back, looking for something – assurance or agreement – in our eyes. I pointedly typed in CNN’s address, comforted by its loading (I famously was unable to load any major news services on 9/11).
Finally, over the speakers, “The Fire Dept has issued an all clear. You may return to your desks.”
Associates began to disperse, muttering, while the woman’s face brightened as if a cloud had passed away. “Does anyone want to go to the caf?”
Once again, proving that the average person tends to employ their powers of cynicism during the course of a potential emergency, but not anytime before or after. Meanwhile, yesterday’s Metro lead with a story on Smarty Jones’ premature retirement, with further revelations about possible terrorist attacks on page two. Good thing I get my revelations from the internet.