“Attention, attention. The fire alarm was inadvertently sounded, please return to your offices.” This is what I heard at 2:45pm on an otherwise quiet Wednesday afternoon at work, when the alarm did in fact go off. Okay, fair enough. Someone tripped it in error. Back to prepping for my 3pm call.
Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. “The emergency on the 24th floor has been contained.” Buzzzzzzzzzzz. “We repeat, the crisis has been contained.”
OK, I know my thought process is not always rational, but my internal alarm began to sound in unison with the unremitting buzz of the building’s alert system.
I calmly walked out of my office to find all of my colleagues going about business as usual. It was as if they didn’t hear the piercing shrill of the still sounding fire alarm. Apparently they were satisfied with the contained crisis pronouncement and disinclined to even question the nature of the emergency.
I, on the other hand, was than delighted to know there was a crisis requiring suppression in the first place. And the fact that the alarm continued to sound did not bolster confidence that emergency was in fact over.
“Hey guys, do you hear the alarm?”
"Yeah. False alarm."
"Yeah. False alarm."
“Hmmm. Ok. Yeah, but why does it continue to sound?” As calmly as I could muster, “And what do you think the, uh, crisis, was on the 24th floor?”
“No clue.” And back to calls, proposals, meetings they went.
My inside voice was screaming “What the fuck is wrong with you people??? Haven’t you see ‘The Towering Inferno?’ There is a crisis on the 24th floor, the alarm is sounding and you act like you are exempt from becoming tomorrow morning’s CNN Headline News.”
My outside persona simply walked to the employee entrance to verify no-one had locked it from the outside, rendering us helpless victims of this horrific terror plot. The door swung wide open. Phew.
I strode coolly back to my office to ensure the phones were working. Nope. Lights blinking like a circuit had been broken. Not good. We WERE hostages. Oh my G-d we need to get out. NOW.
We are on the tenth floor of this midtown structure surrounded by parking decks, businesses and sidewalks. All made of cement. You see where I’m going? It was looking like we might need to crash one of the building’s quadruple reinforced industrial grade glass panes. But then what? Where would we go? It was a modern day tower of terror, 40 years after the original hit the big screen. I was sure. All we were missing was Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. I did not want to die here.
Then a funny thing happened. The alarm stopped. The phones went back on. People were using the elevators. A sure sign we were ok. Everyone knows to use the stairs in time of danger. We made it!
Now 2:59pm. Still time to make my call. What felt like hours actually transpired in a matter of minutes. Hopefully, that’s all this harrowing experience shaved off my life.