Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wind, Ice and Fire

Winter can't make up its mind here in Michigan. Wild temperature swings . . . sudden snowstorms . . . even unusually high winds have visited this holiday season. Check out the trampoline we discovered in a neighborhood front yard. We think it may have been in the backyard last night before 50-mile-an-hour winds descended upon our area. I think "gusty" had about has much fun with that trampoline as any kid could.

As I get older, it's not so much the snow and the cold that bother me as it is the ice. Falling on icy pavement is like getting tackled on concrete. Been there, done that and it hurts. And I just read somebody's holiday newsletter where the writer said they attended a climate change seminar that predicted more ice in the years to come. Great.

On Christmas Eve, mild temperatures followed by a frigid blast resulted in our church parking lot becoming flash frozen when we arrived for midnight mass. After mass, we walked to our cars slowly, like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. (Actually, I've been told that you need to waddle like a duck when walking on ice but I think zombies are more dignified). Some young lady did lose her footing, landing hard on the asphalt. I don't think what she said in response is something you would normally hear within earshot of a church. But I felt sorry for her.

The holidays also bring a raft of fire runs from overheated space heaters, Christmas trees afire and the like. We actually had a REAL fire alarm recently in the building where I work. And I'm one of the fire marshals, charged with clearing my section of the building. This was a first. We've had plenty of drills, but they're all planned well in advance to make sure the necessary people will be there to conduct the drill successfully. Can't do that with a real fire. So when the "fire" announcement came over our PA system to clear the building, I sprang into action.

One think I learned is that people move faster when they know it's a real fire. Evacuating the building was a snap. I checked the file room, kitchen, then moved onto the restrooms. Hmmmm, usually I am joined by my female fire marshal partner, but I learned quickly she was absent.

So what to do? I didn't want to just barge into the lady's room unannounced. Who knows what I might find in there. I was hoping to corral some lady passerby to help. Maybe if she went in there with me, it would be okay, kinda like a male doctor having a woman assistant in the examining toom when he has a female patient.

But all the women had cleared out of this area already. So I opened the door a crack and asked in a deep, authoritative voice, "Is anybody in here?" Immediately, I realized how stupid that was. Some lady sitting there would be freaked out hearing some guy calling in there like that. So I quickly followed it up with, "Fire drill." Then I let the door close, put a "checked and vacated" sign on the hook and hurried on. Only when I was outside did I realize I had said the wrong thing again. It wasn't a drill. It was the real thing.

Thankfully, there wasn't a real fire. Although a couple fire trucks did roll up, the problem was quickly determined to be a vending machine motor that shorted out and began smoking. Although our building second-in-command fire marshal hustled to the smoky room holding two types of fire extinguishers, one in each hand he said later, all that was necessary was to unplug the offending vending machine. Our building first-in-command fire marshall was off that day too. If both building fire marshalls are off, I think the next in command is me. Well, as long as I don't have to evacuate any women's restrooms, I think I'll be okay.


Blogger jan said...

This reminds me of the time in college when we had a dorm fire alarm. It was cold out. I was using the restroom and did not want to go outside so I stood on the toilet while the restroom was checked. Pretty clever until I considered the possibility that this was a real fire.

Very long 15 or 20 minutes for me.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Lynilu said...

I try to respect the elements, all of them. I think my bones are in pretty good shape, but I don't press my luck on ice. Zombie, duck, or weird old lady .... I don't care what I look like. Looks come and go, but broken bones ache for the rest of your life!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Funny you should mention a fire. Before the holiday, a few students thought it would be cool to light a fire in the bathroom garbage can.

We evacuated to the football field and spent three hours in the blazing sun. And, the fire caused about $50,000 damage.

If not for my responsibility to keep the students safe, I would have run like George in a Seinfeld episode.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

Don't worry about bearding the ladies in the john....they have no problem using the men's rooms at crowded sports events, where the men's line moves with astonishing speed and the lady's line is a mile long. I'd love to see you doing your fire marshall thing!
I just watched the news on TV and they said that Michigan is still getting high winds and about 6 inches of snow are heading eastward. Sorry!

5:08 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I know you can handle it, Dave. Big deep booming voice will have us all quavering in our booties.

At least that's the way it would be in the movies....

7:49 PM  
Blogger Nankin said...

Dave, the strange weather is hitting here in North Texas as well. One day we even hit 80, then the cold front rolled in and the next morning it was 19. I was outside this afternoon cleaning up debris.

Funny you should mention fire drills. I'm a "searcher" in our office and there are some people who refuse to leave the building whether they know it's a drill or not. The same goes for tornado warnings.

One of these days it won't be just a bag of burned popcorn or a bagel stuck in the toaster.

2:18 PM  
Blogger amarkonmywall said...

There's something so wonderful, so American, so poignant about that photo. The tidy brick house. The flag. The smashed trampoline. Really, Dave, that's just about the funniest picture I've seen lately and I'm not sure why. In any case, have a wonderful, healthy and happy New Year!

7:05 PM  
Blogger Merle said...

Hi Dave ~~ Great post and I think any ladies in the toilet would be glad of a warning about fire. Well done on your drills and good management. The photo of the home is sad with the wrecked trampoline, the result of those wild winds. Sorry to hear your weather is similar to the North Pole. It will change before too long. I hope you and your family had a great Christmas and I wish you all A Happy New Year with joy and health and prosperity. Watch
out for those icy walkways.
I still think men won't follow the instructions or ask directions if
they get lost, so we beg to differ there.Happy days in Michigan my friend. Regards, Merle.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

JAN--I remember an early morning fire alarm at the girls' dorm at my college. Gossips were having a field day seeing which guys would be exiting too (it was past curfew).

LYNILU--I know about broken bones. I've broken one bone in my life, one in my hand, about 30 years ago and the muscles there still bear evidence.

FRED--Luckily it wasn't that cold outside and we were only out there for 20 minutes. Still, I heard people complain that they be excused to head to the mall or to the nearest diner for breakfast.

NANKIN--I know all about people who refuse to exit the building in a fire drill. Some lady refused to hang up the phone, so I waited until she was done, then we both went out together.

VICKIE--Wendy took that picture out the car window as we were driving by. I thought it was the perfect illustration for this blog.

MERLE--Thanks for the best wishes. Christmas was fine but I'm nursing a bad tooth right now, so the year may not start out too, mmmm,painlessly.

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One day a fire marshal, next Gov. of Illinois.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, I can relate to that ice! I was always deathly afraid of it, even as a kid. I always knew the damage it could do and have had my spills on it years ago. I don't miss it in the least. And that black ice on the roads....a death trap to drive on.
Hey, bravo to you, Mr. Second In Charge Fire Marshall.....job well done. As usual, I chuckled my way through your telling of the story.
Just wanted to pop by and wish you and Wendy a very HAPPY NEW YEAR. All the best to both of you for 2009.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous babette said...

I know how that trampoline feels!

A fire marshal standing guard sounds like a pretty good idea presently. Now, where did I put those matches?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

G'day Dave, Happy New Year to you and yours, glad to hear you didn't leave anyone in the restroom thinking it was a fire drill.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Geri said...

Wow looks like the wind did a number on the trampoline. Thank heavens it didn't hit anyone. Sounds like you had good luck with no fire too!

4:19 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

All I can say is, I'm glad that I live in Texas.... I would rather put up with an occasional hurricane than ice every year.

Glad no one was hurt in your "kinda" fire....You did a good job making sure you area was "clean"...It is good that you got a chance to go through the motions so that you could see what was really needed and how you could improvise when fire marshalls are not there.

Dave, I hope you and Wendy have a great new year.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

ANONYMOUS (Vic, I think)--Right now I'd rather be fire marshall. Less heat.

TERRI--The fall I fear the most is the one where your feet fly forward and you land on your back. I've had that happen a couple times. Looks funny in the movies but if you're not a professional stunt double, it hurts plenty.

BABETTE--Feeling a bit blue today? Heh, heh. Oh c'mon, you really didn't think they were going to win did you? Hope you and your bunch had a happy rest of the holidays.

PETER--Hope your holiday there was a good one too. We need more women fire marshalls in our building since there are many more women than men.

GERI--That would be scary to see a trampoline coming at you. Would make a good YouTube video though.

LUCY--As long as you live far enough inland, I guess a hurricane is okay. But I've seen some pretty awful hurricane damage up close and personal.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave, we are about 80 miles inland. We don't get storm surge but we do get plenty of wind and rain.....

8:54 PM  
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10:22 PM  

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