Wake-up calls…

Pitch dark and someone’s pounding on our heavy outer door. “Wake up! Fire Department! Everybody out! Wake up!” That’s what Kim heard. I heard “Sweetie, you have to get up, the fire department’s here, you have to get dressed, we have to get out,” all with a calm urgency in voice and hands. Mass confusion in my brain, which way is up, what’s happening, will we have to go outside in the cold, what clothes do I grab, I can smell an electrical fire, just put something on, what time is it? Kim says it’s 4:20. Seriously? Is this my life?

Within seconds I’ve managed to cover myself with pieces of clothing from head to toe and we’re out in the acrid stench of the hallway and headed to the atrium three floors down, past firemen with axes and hoses and other equipment always eerily reminiscent of 9/11, somberly focused on the challenge at hand, which isn’t yet fully known.

The outside air is good for breathing and also for waking up, and my next thought, of course, is how good my first sip of coffee is going to be this morning… followed immediately by how glad I am that I’m on day six of the flu instead of day two. There’s always at least one upside, right? And that whatever day of the week this is will likely only get better from here.

Maybe not more exciting, but better. It was indeed an electrical fire in the loft/condo two doors south of us on our floor, whose owners are rarely here, which blackened a wall and revealed a failure in the system. For a couple of predawn hours, there were firetrucks, lights blazing, on every side of our five-story building, and firemen in full gear crawling all over it, so we felt nothing if not safe. (In my case, of course, Kim is my first line of security as my “ears.”)

And now I’m sitting here putting it all together in my head and feeling thankful it wasn’t a big to-do to get a fire abatement company here at the soul-crushing hour of 3:30am, which is what time it all began. Due to a small compromise within the condo, the main ear-splitting fire alarm in our mixed-use steel, concrete, glass and brick building didn’t go off, but the individual unit itself notified our city fire department and in turn our building manager. No one had to call the condo owners in another state to okay payment to a private company, because the commercial entities on the first two floors and all the owner/occupants on the top three have a social contract along with all the other residents of the city, with the city fire department. It’s simple unadorned socialism – we pool our taxes and help each other out with these things, which strikes me as a fabulous arrangement at 3:30 or 4:20 in the frigid dark when nearly all my material goods, which aren’t that many, but especially my nice warm bed, are four floors above my head and I’m not asking for a lot else. If it ain’t broke, what’s to fix?

But guess who’s probably taking a nap this afternoon?

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