When the fire alarm went screech, screech, screech it was assumed that we would leave our offices in an orderly manner, walk to the stairwell, courteously and efficiently walk down the steps, and exit the door to the patio. There we would stand until we were told it was an ’exercise’ or a false alarm.
The only ‘actual’ fire scare I ever experienced in the 15 years I worked there was a small fire in a wastebasket. How the security force tried to twist and turn that into “the handicapped woman did it” is another story. The fire was on the 3rd floor I worked on the 5th floor. The handicapped woman would have had to set the fire and run like hell to have pulled that one off, but that's a story foranother time. This story is about a ’cast’.
I’ve told you before that they removed the ankle from my right leg. Instead of an ankle I have a stabilized foot attached to my leg by a very large staple. It’s not very pretty to look at from the outside and it certainly is not beautiful in a x-ray, but it has worked; most times.
My ‘guilty’ pleasures were dancing and walking. They were guilty pleasures because I wasn’t supposed to do much of either. The doctors would have blown a fuse if they had known how often I did both; every blessed chance I got! The price I often had to pay was sprained muscles and stretched and achy tendons in the area that should have been an ankle. During the period when I was working all day, walking a college campus at night, and dancing all weekend the pain got impossible to ignore. My funny little limp was becoming a pain in the a%$ big limp. So I limped my way into my Orthopedists office.
My Orthopedists gave me the standard lecture. “Go to bed for a week. Take the pressure off your foot.” Then he raised his white coat and mimicked how I walked. He thought it was serious business. I thought it was funny as hell. He did that at least once a year. This particular visit he decided that putting a cast on my leg, up to my knee, would alleviate the stress the ankle had to take. An ankle rest for a couple of weeks, that didn’t entail me having to retire to my bedroom, sounded acceptable. So I let him put the cast on; a beautiful white cast that I let all my friends decorate with flowers and scrawls. I operated as usual except I had to curtail the dancing for a bit.
Then one day at work the fire alarm went screech, screech, screech. I left my office with the rest of thestaff. Most of the engineers were Retired Air Force Personnel. Military men with a military view of women, but they were a well-meaning group. We all walked to the stairwell together. We were used to these drills. When we got to the stairwell and opened the door we found half-panicked people streaming down the stairs. We worked on the 5th floor, but the floors above us had gone on rush mode and they were almost pushing one another to get down the stairs.
Getting down a flight of stairs wasn’t one of the things that I did easily under the best of circumstances. Without ankle motion on the one side I had to kind of turn to the leg that had an ankle, hold on to the stair rail, and slowly take the steps one at a time. There was no way that I could merge into the mass of humanity that was rushing down the stairs. With a cast on my leg it was unthinkable. So I did the next best thing. I turned to the Retired Air Force Engineering Personnel that were gathered behind me and said, “You men go ahead. I’ll stand in the corner of the stairwell landing, behind all the descending people. When the rush is over I’ll sit on the steps and scoot down on my fanny.“
Now, that sounded very reasonable to me. I would be safe. The people streaming down the stairs would be safe. The Engineers would be safe. And everyone would be following the orders issued in the ‘Fire Procedures Document’ that we all had been directed to read.
The Engineers found it totally UNACCEPTABLE. Two of them tried to pick me up to sling me over their shoulders. I pushed them away. I considered kicking them in the shins with the cast, but held myself in check. They were only trying to be gentlemen. Three of them had a conference and decided that they would do that thing that Firemen do and weave their arms together. Then they would carry me down the stairs Firemen-style. That just plain scared the beejesus out of me. They were going to walk down 10 flights of stairs with me sitting on their arms. Were they crazy?! The more I tried to walk through the door so I could stand on the landing the more these men detained me. They started demanding that I go along with their schemes. I equally demanded that they toddle on over to the stairs and disappear with the flowing masses. Our difference of opinions got loud and the noise attracted the Fire Security Honcho for our floor.
The Floor Fire Honcho was nothing but an Engineer that had volunteered to direct other Engineers out of the building. He had no idea what to do with five fighting Engineers and one indignant blonde with a cast. He was on the verge of getting hysterical and he wasn‘t even involved in the Engineering Escape Caper. We weren’t doing as he had been taught we should do; nobody was moving, everybody was arguing. He finally threw up his arms and dictated that I should stand next to the door, not in the stairwell, and one of the Engineers should stand beside me. That made no sense to me whatsoever. If there really was a fire the directed Engineer and I were destined to burn, baby burn. But the Engineer stood there by my side steadfastly until the all clear signal was given.
Later that day I was called into the Department Heads office and told that I had caused concern and panic in the offices of Security and Fire. There was going to be a special meeting to decide if I should be allowed to work in the building.
They had three (3) meetings about the concern I had caused. It became a hot topic. It was talked about around the water cooler. It consumed hours and hours of breast-beating and hair pulling, but in the end the Powers That Be came up with this brainstorm:
I would stand in the corner of the stairwell landing, behind all of the descending people. When the rush was over I could slowly make my way down the stairs.
Somehow that sounded familiar; a solution that was worthy of hours of complex discussions.
A Disclaimer! I'm sick and tired of dealing with the Alerts for my journal. They haven't gone out in the last five entries I have written. I wrote, hit 'save' and got off the computer. John snuck in and took a look to see if an Alert had gone into his mail from my journal. He loves a good fight, so he prevails. He wrote a catchy little blurb and sent an alert through my journal. Those of you that got that alert know that Blondepennie would NEVER use words like that, well almost Never, well never through an AOL anything, well maybe never is a little too extreme. Lets leave it this way ... John sent the alert!