Monday, June 9, 2008

'We Didn't Start the Fire"*

To end my posts on London, I'm actually going to let my guest blogger have the last word. He claims he isn't that creative and he's not a writer, but I may have to watch out that he doesn't take my job! He certainly has the same sarcastic tone...I guess that's one of the reasons why we're married. Anyway, with out any further ado: My husband.

There are times when I travel that my trip develops a theme. London 2008 was one of those trips. What was the theme you ask? Fire alarms. Strange, I know. Just give it time…

It all started my first Tuesday when I was at the client's office. Shortly after settling in, the client came by to let me know that there "might" be a fire drill. Great, sounds like fun. So, with this in mind, I went back to work. A couple of hours later, sure enough, fire drill time. Of course, I had completely forgotten about it until the sirens went off so I had to restart my heart, pick myself up off the floor and find my way out without running or screaming. Harder than it sounds. A few hours later, apparently just for fun, they decided to set the sirens off again. Just for a few seconds. We didn't have to leave but I did have to change my pants. Luckily, I carry a spare pair.

Now you would think that this would be the end of my excitement with fire alarms, right? How many run-ins can you possibly have with such a phenomenon in one trip? 5:47am Monday morning. I don't care where you are, that's early. I am awoken (with a start would be an understatement) to a very loud and painful sound. Now, it took a few seconds to figure things out and here's why.

Every night for a week, my phone would ring half-way twice at midnight. Either it was broken or it just didn’t like me. So when I woke up on Monday morning, my first thought was that it was the phone with my 12:00am wake up call. No such luck.

I then went for the TV remote. Seem odd? Well, the room didn’t have an alarm clock and I didn't want to use my cell phone because it would keep looking for a signal and just run the battery down and die, so, I had been using the alarm feature on the TV. Not only did it turn the TV on, it also made an ear piercing noise. Good morning!

So, at 5:47am (in case you forgot), I grabbed the remote and tried to turn the TV, and hopefully the noise, off. Turns out, TV remotes do not work on fire alarms. Go figure. Eventually, I realized what was happening and considering the chances of it being a drill at 5:47am in a hotel are quite slim, I decided to get out.

In preparing to flee for my life, I figured I should grab the essentials in the event my room would soon be engulfed in flames. Not what you want to think about at the butt crack of dawn but here is what I grabbed: My warm-ups (of course). There is no way I was letting those things go. A long sleeve shirt. No real reason. I just figured it would be cold outside, which it was. Flip flops. Cold air means cold ground which means an even grumpier me. My wallet and passport. Good grabs I feel. If I lost everything else, I would still be able to get home in my favorite warm ups.

Once I was "packed", I headed out of my room and followed the emergency exit signs (well marked I must say) to the outside. As I was walking down the hallway, a few people were sticking their heads out of their rooms and asking what was going on in a multitude of accents. I really wanted to scream, "Fire! Fire! Run for your lives!" But I didn't. I simply informed them it was the fire alarm and proceeded to save my own behind. What was the highlight of my first, and hopefully last, hotel fire alarm experience? It had to be the lady who came storming into the stairwell, with her pants half on (or half off depending on how you look at it), hopping on one leg while trying to get the other one in her pants. Sorry lady, but that's just too funny. Thank you.

So we all went outside and waited for one, and only one, fire truck to arrive. Only two guys got out (they must have known it wasn't too important) and they let us back in after about 10 minutes. It turns out that someone was smoking in his room. I guess it's a good thing I didn’t find out who it was or in what room he was staying or else this story would be about my experiences getting arrested in a foreign country instead. Probably not as funny. So, in an attempt to find a silver lining, I have compiled a list of things I have learned as a result of this enriching life experience.

1. Mercedes Benz makes fire engines. Who knew?

2. When I have to, I can find a pair of black warm-ups, in a black suitcase, in a dark room. A talent I am sure many people are envious of.

3. TV remotes do not turn off fire alarms. This one is important so make a mental note.

4. The Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury deserves kudos for their emergency signage. It was quite easy for me to find my way out while in potential cardiac arrest.

5. While the fire alarm is going off is the wrong time to try and read the escape route map on the hotel room door. Believe it or not, it is quite confusing under such circumstances. If, however, you choose not to follow this advice, at least turn the light on. I didn't. That might have been why it was so tough to read. My recommendation: just follow the signs. Another, albeit less reliable option, would be to follow other people. If it turns out that they don't know where they are going, at least you won't be alone.

6. Fire doors are everywhere in hotels in London. You don't usually notice them as they are open until the fire alarm goes off, and then they all close. The idea is that they will help to slow the progression of a fire. Guess what. They also slow the escape of a terrified foreigner fleeing for his life. We may need to rethink this. So, if you are ever in London and there is a fire, you better know how to open doors. Practice now. It may pay off in the future.


*Billy Joel