Yes, I’ve been too tired to write for over a week and all I have is this Seinfeldesque line: what’s the deal with fire drills? I suck. See, I really would like to tell you the nicknames I have in my head for all the people at my placement school and the famous people who attended it and the tours that go through every hour while the kids go on with their lessons, not even noticing or how I am dealing with the small portions they give you in the cafeteria and who I should sit with or how I am busy whittling down the many routes and transfers I could take to get there to which is the quickest, but I’d hate to give anything away until I’m done. You see, I have fallen a bit in love with the place and its staff. Maybe later.
But, anyway, it can’t just be me because I’ve worked at five or six different companies and institutions over my career and they helpfully e-mailed you in advance to send out the fire drill schedule. The 4th floor will be at 11am… the fifth floor will be at 12pm, and so forth. At my new job it’s by building (and fortunately, my building was an hour I wasn’t scheduled to be there). I almost forgot that it wasn’t always this way, that in school, you’d be sitting in class wishing Calgon would take you away when suddenly that alarm would go off and everyone would jump. But now I’m back! Back in the theater of my childhood, the K-12 school. Twice in one week this has happened. The first time, I was meeting with a teacher in an empty classroom when a light somewhere in my periphery started to blink and suddenly the teacher jumped up and said, “fire drill! I have to go get my kids.” And she ran out of the room. About three seconds later, the alarm went off. I just followed the herd out to a nearby park and contemplated the re-emergence of the surprise fire drill.
I wasn’t any better clued in the second time, when I was observing a class, and behind the teacher’s head a light began to blink and… you can guess the rest. A kid yelled out joyfully, “fire drill!,” the teacher groaned, and off we went to the park. Along the way, I heard one of the little kids say that immortal standard of fire drills to another child, “do you think it’s a real fire?” Adults never seem to say that. And you don’t get to go to the park, either. At the Record Company, we met in a central hallway where they checked to make sure the “searchers” were still employed there. That’s always a risk in the music business.
But, well, now I have it down. I know all the escape routes to the park and how the blinking light is the first tell-tale sign. Because, let’s face it, if a fire breaks out at my “real” job’s workplace (you know, the one where they pay me), I’ll probably think, “but I didn’t get an e-mail!” Then I’ll e-mail someone and ask them if they think it’s a real fire. Somehow, I think the preparation with the element of surprise and the moving to the exits in an orderly fashion is probably a wee bit more conducive to your chances of survival. But what do I know? I can’t even figure out where to sit at lunch.