: to flee or not to flee :

image194 Those were my options, ladies and gentlemen, not a lame reference to Hamlet’s soliloquy. I swear.

You see, the fire alarm had gone off in my apartment building. That thing shrieked and wailed in a relentless high-pitched keen that went through my head like a bullet and ricocheted around my skull. Hands, which happily turned out to be my own, clamped themselves over my ears. My eyes slammed shut and every muscle tensed into a knot.

My body was in fight or flight mode, but I could do neither; I stood stock-still. The piercing screech of the alarm had stopped me dead in my tracks. Terrific, I thought, I’m going to be a deaf woman. Better that than a cinder, I argued. Shut up and let me think, I shouted.

That’s hard to do in such a clamorous, stressful situation. Think, I mean. My feet wanted to run, but the rest of me didn’t. So I dithered. Should I flee into the frosty air or sit tight? Flee? Sit? Flee? Sit? Finally, I pried my hands off my ears and checked the weather, which was sunny and 11º F. Hey, one more degree and we’d have a full dozen. Sweet.

I sat. It’s just too freaking cold to go outside. Besides, when a fire alarm goes off, I automatically think fire drill. Especially when it’s 11 puny degrees. That’s bone-chilling, teeth-chattering weather. I’m not going out there. Not voluntarily. Not on a dare. Not at gunpoint. I don’t do cold. Period.

I did make concessions, allowing for the possibility of a real honest-to-goodness fire with flames and sparks and stuff. Pants, for one. I put a pair on over my long johns. And shoes, for another. Although my socks are plenty thick enough by themselves. Seriously. I think they have an R-value, like home insulation.

So I was prepared. Or as prepared as anyone can be for brutal, bitter cold.

In the lobby, building residents were abuzz with nervous energy. People scurried and fretted, they wrung their hands and darted their eyes, but no one bolted for the door. The elevator’s dead, one guy said. The second floor’s filled with smoke, said another. Still, no one legged it.

It didn’t take long for the fire department to arrive. They tromped around in their boots and helmets awhile, issued the all clear, and life went on. Start to finish the whole business lasted less than an hour, but my ears will take weeks to recover.

Someone, they wouldn’t say who, burned lunch. What, I’m sorry, lunch? Were they cooking a mattress? Ay yi yi.

Copyright © 2013 Publikworks

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10 Responses to “: to flee or not to flee :”

  1. Ned's Blog

    I’m a volunteer firefighter, and I can’t tell you how many “burned popcorn” fires we get tapped out for. When the call goes out at 2 a.m., I think to myself: Who’s microwaving popcorn at THIS hour?!?

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    • publikworks

      You know, if I was the 9-1-1 dispatcher I’d ask. I would. ‘Is this really necessary or were you making popcorn again? You guys need your rest. And, thanks, by the way. You’re the best.

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      • Ned's Blog

        Lol! The one time we decide not to come is the one time it’s the real thing — so we always do. I’m just glad they started buying the pre-popped stuff. She had insomnia, so her “fires” we at all hours!

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  2. FurthermoreAndSoForth

    I love that you checked the temperature outside first. Priorities. And weren’t you maybe thinking just a little bit about how nice and warm that 2nd floor fire might be?

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    • publikworks

      I won’t lie. The thought of zipping up to the second floor for a steam was mighty appealing. A little smoke wouldn’t hurt. it’d blend in with the sauna ambience.

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  3. Distinguished Malcontent

    As a kid, I remember school teaching us a catchy song about “Stop, Drop and Roll.” I mean, they REALLY hammered the message home.

    This lead me to believe that catching on fire would be a much more common problem in my life than it turned out to be.

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