Thursday, March 27, 2008


I got up at nine am. At ten thirty-one, just one minute late, the building's fire alarm sounded. This was and wasn't surprising: I'd been warned about this very drill,* but at ten past a maintenance crew had set a couple of ladders up outside my door and pulled all the PA equipment out of the ceiling to lay it out on a tarp. I almost went back to bed. But then at ten thirty-one there was a shrill blast of siren interspersed with the taped English-language announcement to stay calm and leave the building, all transmitted by speakers hanging at head height from colored wires. I was ready to go; I had my key, money, and emergency reading material. I'd carefully avoided gathering any precious items, as per instructions; I wanted to get this right. I'd memorized the route to the stairwell across from my door, and managed to efficiently dodge the ladders newly obstructing my way. I walked, in an orderly fashion, downstairs. I had no idea how to exit the building since my stairwell doesn't actually go to the lobby. I was the only soul on the whole long walk. Fourteen floors is a long way down. At every floor along the way, maintenance crews with ladders were working on the speakers, but the noise persisted. At the bottom, the stairway opened into the parking area behind the building, and I walked out onto the sidewalk. There were about thirty building staff members there, taking turns setting--and then extinguishing--a fire in a large metal pan. It was quite festive. There were roughly seven other tenants huddled impatiently by themselves, moody and distant. So I hung out with the happily fire-bugging staffers for half an hour before finally being allowed back into the building. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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