Wednesday, April 17, 2013

we didn't start the fire

I work on the 36th floor of an office building in downtown Philadelphia. The building sits at the corner of 15th and Market Streets among a grouping of other high-rise structures that, together, comprise the business center of the fifth largest city in the country.

During my first week of employment, over six years ago, I was sitting at my desk in my small office in an inside alcove flanked by three other similar-sized offices. Suddenly, a blaring siren sounded just outside my office door. I stood up and poked my head into the hallway. A strobe light flashed on the fire emergency signal that was mounted on the wall three feet from my door. The ear-splitting wail continued. I looked around. I was the only person in the hallway. One of my new co-workers sat at her desk and stared at her computer monitor, unflinching. Another co-worker continued a phone conversation, unfazed.

I dramatically cleared my throat. "I'm not the only one who hears that, am I?," I loudly questioned, motioning skyward to the blinking light and deafening alarm.

Co-worker Number One turned toward me and answered, "Oh, nobody pays attention to that." She turned back to her computer.

"Good to know., " I said aloud, to no one in particular.

This morning, as I ascended the escalator from the train station to the elevator lobby, I was greeted by a large sign warning of a fire drill at 10 o'clock. I boarded an elevator, as I have done hundreds of mornings before, and didn't give the sign or the warning another thought.

And here's why:

I'm nearly 52 years-old. I work on the 36th floor. If there is ever a fire in my building, safety regulations forbid the use of elevators (they probably shut off automatically anyway). If I run down 36 flights of stairs, I am so out of shape that I will die when I get to the bottom. If I stay in the building, I will die in the fire. Either way, I'm equally fucked and I will die. So I might as well stay at my desk and get some work done.

How's that for loyalty?

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