Ah, the day my office caught fire. I remember it like it was yesterday. After all, it was in fact yesterday.
Imagine it all: me, sitting in a conference room on the 39th floor of a high-rise office building in downtown Chicago, Illinois. I've got my little cup of coffee in my little fuck-you-environment-I've-got-a-meeting styrofoam cup. I've got my little notebook which I will use to take all kinds of useful notes, which I will later furiously retype into notetab when I get back to my machine. I've been in here for thirty minutes or so, blissfully unaware that, seven stories up, the fun was really getting started.
In the middle of a classic "who does what where how" meeting, there's an innocent little knock on our door. "Um, we see smoke, so we're leaving. You guys probably should, too." No crazy fire alarm or say, wonderful city of Chicago mandated smoke detector to tell us of the impending danger. Just a coworker that thought, maybe, we might find the information important when planning out the rest of our day.
I walk briskly back to my desk to retrieve my shiny reflective armband and rechargeable flashlight. I get to play fireman today. I take my emergency plan mandated position next to the stairwell on the far side of the elevator bank just as the fire alarm (finally) begins screaming like a freshly-kicked preschooler. Dutifully, I begin yelling my rehearsed lines. "Stay to the right in a singe file line so the fire department can make their way up on the left. Just go slow, there's no need to panic." I ask folks if they're doing okay making it down the stairs. I'm there for about five minutes, and I don't see anyone else on our floor, let alone the other folks who are supposed to be assisting folks to get off the floor. By the time the stairway is clear of folks from the upper floors, I begin my own decent down 38 flights of stairs.
I intellectually understood that I was 38 floors up into the sky, but getting up there by elevator never really gave me a proper idea of the significance of this distance. And, even going down the emergency stairs, I'm still not sure I truly grasp the concept. What I can say is that the first ten floors were easy, the second ten floors weren't very fun, the third ten floors were unlikable as a whole, and the last eight generally sucked ass. I made my way out onto the street, where I was surrounded by an armada of fire engines, ambulances, and police cars. They had surrounded the building on two blocks all the way around with equipment. The exploitative news crews were beginning to set up, as well as circling around in helicopters.
It wasn't until I made it to my companies emergency assembly point three blocks away that I actually turned around and looked at the building I just strolled out of. And, sure enough, big black billowing smoke was pouring off the roof of the structure. I think it was at this point that things actually began sinking in a little. 'Wow, the building is actually on fire. This is really weird. I was just up there.'
So I did what any reasonable person does when their office building is on fire at noon. I gathered up coworkers, hit the bar, and was nice and drunk by 1:30. I heard later that they re-opened the building by three, but at that point I was in no shape to resume my duties, and as I was already out drinking with my boss I figured that this would all end up okay.
And it did. 8:30 this morning I'm sitting at my desk, another cup of coffee in another fuck-you-environment-I've-got-a-meeting styrofoam cup, ready to head back into another conference room. Like things never happened. Except I am sore. Horribly sore from the thighs down. I guess I should look into logging some time on a stairmaster or something.
Turns out an air conditioning unit on the roof cooked off during a test of the system. No corporate lackies were permanently hurt in the incident.