December 26, 2011: No bravado
It was the same voice that had once asked, "do you want your desk clean?" I didn't think much more about it.
But she didn't return. I peeked into the adjoining room and saw the vacuum standing motionless at the edge of the reception area. The cleaning staff was gone.
I started to wonder what she meant by, "dares fire on five." Was there a fire on the fifth floor? She hadn't seemed worried. Should I have been worried?
I kept clicking and typing for awhile, but then wondered what would happen if there really was a fire and I couldn't get out.
So I collected my belongings, left the computer on, and started down the stairwell. I saw a couple of people one flight above me, casually descending the stairs while conversing in normal tones. They displayed no sense of urgency.
As I approached the fifth floor, though, I heard loud commands, watched yellow-jacketed firefighters climb up to the landing and lumber into and out of the hallway, observed hoses running along the floor past propped-open exit doors, and smelled an unfamiliar smoke, not what I remembered wafting from a barbeque grill or a blown out match.
I stepped carefully over the hoses, avoided wet spots on the stairwell, gripped the banister, walked carefully down to the lobby, and quickly strode out of the building.
I only had to wait across the street for a short time before learning the fire had been small and was contained. Nobody had been hurt. But I wasn't allowed back into the building. Fire crews had to inspect other floors for possible damage.
So I couldn't finish my work that night. I couldn't even turn off the computer. I began to think that maybe I should have stayed in the office.
But then I realized that I was safe and I recognized the potential danger of my earlier situation. Common sense had triumphed over bravado.