March 12, 2009

Blaze of Glory

So I woke up yesterday to banging. Banging and yelling. I thought my roommate had locked himself out of the apartment again. Something I have done myself. Then there’s the smoke detector going off in the distance as well. You want to talk about how fast a human being can jump out of bed, put on clothes and grab a computer? Put me down for 30 seconds.

My apartment caught fire yesterday. There’s nothing that can kick your life into overdrive quite as fast as a fire can. After throwing myself together, I ventured out into the unknown to see if I could escape only to be met with a wall of smoke. You want to talk discombobulating? Try moving through an apartment you know well (because it’s roughly 2.5 square feet), only you can’t breathe and you hear an axe going to town on your neighbor’s door. I managed to crawl through the living room with a towel on my face (the only thing I could do from elementary school fire safety training) and knock on the door to let the firemen know someone was still in our apartment. Did they hear my feeble knocks? Maybe, maybe not. But I quickly moved from the living to the kitchen window to get some air and wet the towel so I could breathe, the only other thing I remembered from said fire training. You know that feeling when you’re sitting by a campfire and the wind changes, and you get a facefull of smoke? Try staying there without the breezes blowing that smoke towards your buddies. Not good times.

Now, I should say that the 4th floor of my building does not have direct access to the fire escape. This would have been a good thing to notice before I moved in, but whatever. Noticing stuff is overrated. As I’m looking out the window to a one-story drop to the nearest escape landing, one of the firemen notices I’m still in the building, and motions for the ladder truck to move closer to the building. As they’re extending the ladder, an alien comes in and tells me to follow him downstairs. At this point, I figured I’m either dead or he might have been a fireman in a previous life. So I went with the man in the weird mask.

Now, the key thing I forgot about in my mad dash to not be naked outside was that the temperature dropped from Tuesday to Wednesday. About 25 degrees. So I didn’t grab a jacket, only the thin hoodie I was wearing at the time and proceeded to freeze for a couple of hours until we could go back in the building. But at least it wasn’t raining, too.

How did the fire start, and what was the extent of the damage, you might ask? Well, it apparently started as an electrical short in a third-floor bathroom that then spread through the walls. One of which I crawled by on my adventure through Smoke Room. The fire department had to rip out sections of the ceiling in order to dump water down four floors. So my living room is a lake, the wall between our living room and the neighbor’s bathroom disappeared, and I could see the sky through the ceiling. Surreal? You bet. Especially when you’re standing in your living room a mile or so inland from Lake Michigan and hear seagulls.

Everything ended up okay (except for the building), and hopefully people will get to move back in this weekend, but I’d like to give a huge shout out to DJ and Josh for letting me crash on their couch for a couple of days, and a huge shout-out to the Chicago Fire Department for getting everyone out safely. So my stuff smells like a barbeque, I met a few more neighbors, and it wasn’t raining. Not a great day, but a decent one. Can we say low expectations?

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