Loud Boom, Lights Out, Fire Alarm

Some of the absurdity of this morning just sort of sank in. This morning, long before we opened, we heard a loud bang, which seemed like it was far away, but then our power went out just a few moments afterwards. Probably two seconds after this, our fire alarms went off. A clerk shrieked and I evacuated the building, and called 911. As I went by the electrical room, I couldve sworn I smelled something electrical burning. I did manage to save my coffee and pipe. Hey, Ive got my priorities.

I had the employees move their cars as far away from the building as possible. I’d have had them gather outside, outside of their cars, but it was too cold and we didnt know how long it would take for the fire department to show up.

The fire department eventually shows up, and they pull around to the wrong side of the building. We waited and they finally come to the back of the building. They ask me what happened. I said, “loud boom, lights out, fire alarm.” Could be our electrical room, could be a bunch of places in the building where something mightve blown.

Then they want me to let them in and walk them through the building.

Lets think about this for a moment, shall we? The building may be burning, smoking, god knows what, and theyd like me to step into that ol’ building with them. I mean, can’t I just give them the key and tell them to have at it? But no, I get to traipse through a building with two firemen with no equipment, through a building where every alarm we have is going off. Ooh, they want to see this side of the building, would I show them how to get there. Gosh, maybe this other side of the building, please show them through.

I used to work somewhere else, long before I came to the postal service, where we pretty much ignored the fire alarms, we had so many false ones. Then one day, it went off, but sounded funny. We walked through the building, and then into this giant oven, tall enough for trucks to pass through. Temperature about 312 degrees. We see a gas main fire, shut down the gas to that main, and walk out. Our phone is going nuts. I pick up the phone and the guy on the other side wants to know why I picked up the phone. Duh. I asked why the heck he would ask something like that?

“Didn’t your alarm sound different than normal?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Didnt they tell you guys what that meant?”


“It means a gas main fire is out of control, and the building could go up in any second, and the alarm meant that everyone had to immediately not only get out of the building, but get as clear of it as possible, running for your lives.”

As scary as this was, I kind of wondered why he’d be dumb enough to call not expecting any answer. “Hi, I’m dead. Can I help you?” For chrissakes, send the fire department, the police, any other number you might think of. Don’t call and see if I’m still alive to have my ass chewed out.

So I take alarms kind of seriously anymore.

Next time, I’m handing my keys to the firemen. I’m evacuating to Cleveland. Call me when its over.

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