Friday, August 04, 2006

Not exactly "Backdraft"

So here I am enjoying a rock'n-roll'n thunderstorm at my hotel late Tuesday night when BLAM! - our building sustains a direct hit from lightning. Then - lights out, alarms on.

Of course my first response was to reach up and try to remove the battery from the smoke alarm because IT WAS FREAKING LOUD! (Don't bother with the lecture, I know you're not supposed to touch them under penalty of law.) Unfortunately, it didn't have a battery and was powered by some kind of backup system. Bastards!

But I wasn't concerned that the hotel was actually on fire either because the alarm went off the instant the lighting struck, and I felt reasonably sure it was blaring only because of the
power outage. But after about 5 minutes, I got tired of sitting on my bed in a dark room and decided it would be much more interesting to wander on down to the lobby and see what they had to say about it. Here's what the kid behind the desk was saying as soon as I came around the corner:

"I SMELL SMOKE! EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO OUTSIDE. NOW!!!"

Hmmm. That was a tough one. One look outside told me and the other 40 or so people standing there that going outside wasn't really an option. Most of us were standing around only in some form of sleepwear, and it was raining so hard outside that the rain was coming at the windows sideways. I heard one old woman say, "I'll go outside when I see flames, thank you."

So there we stood. And there we waited while the staff evacuated the entire hotel into the lobby space, eerily illuminated by only the emergency lights, while the nuclear-powered fire alarms screamed at an eardrum-bleeding decibel level.

And then - the troops arrived. Apparently our little incident qualified as a 3 alarm fire. Before I knew it 25 firemen came bursting through the front doors with their hoses, donned in oxygen masks and fully prepared to battle their way through the flames so they could rescue trapped mommies who were hanging their babies out of the 10th story windows.

The only problem was, we were a two story hotel, there were no stranded people hanging babies out of windows, and - oh yeah, one other small fact - THERE WAS NO FIRE!

I understand of course that everyone was just following standard operating procedure and all. But in our case it all came off as comical overkill. Here are 150 people who just want to go back to bed, standing around in a hotel lobby in their PJs while an entire volunteer fire department scoured the building in search of our desk clerk's mysterious smoke.

Finally after two hours of thermal scanning, sniffing and crawling around in the attic, the lights came back on and the fire chief issued the all clear. "So what was it?" I heard someone ask. "Oh, just a toasted breaker in the main service panel that took the brunt of the hit," the chief explained. "Nothing serious."

Nothing serious? Tell that to my co-worker. He was 4 rooms down from the service panel and was working on his computer when the lightning hit. He now has a fried laptop.

Sure, it's not "babies hanging out of the window" serious, but it sure screwed up his day.

13 comments:

Mooselet said...

Reminds me of college, and the numerous times the fire alarms were set off (often 4-5 times a night on weekends). You'd trundle outside and wait until the fire crews gave it the all clear. Since it was a three story dorm, many a time we simply hid under the covers when the RA's came banging on the door on a cold winter's night.

Blog-o-licious said...

America, the land of inopportune over reaction! Do you have a particular musical score that you would set this scene too?

Heather said...

Reminds me of my wedding night...

Seriously, the hotel across the street had someone pull the alarm at 4 am on my wedding night/morning. We did not appreciate the early awakening.

My Mom graciously cut the piece out of the paper that lists the fire calls. What a nice momento of that lovely morning.

Mom said...

Reminds me of the time I was standing in your sister's bedroom doorway, and lightning hit the house & a bolt traveled right across the room--missing your sister by inches. Then we smelled smoke--called the fire dept--they came charging in, looked EVERYWHERE and finally decided it was the wiring in the walls that had gotten burned out when the lightning grounded itself in an electric outlet and traveled thru the whole house--even burning out the electric stove in the other end of the house. VERY scarey!!!

yellojkt said...

I would be pissed at having a good night's sleep ruined. And I feel real sorry for the laptop.

Waya said...

So, did you see anyone with nice lingerie on while waiting around for the fire dept?!

Harmonica Man said...

mooselet - I so wanted to hide under the covers until it passed - but the alarms were making my ears bleed!

blog-o-licious - Hmmm. Maybe Chariots of Fire?

heather - Maybe they pulled the alarm on you two - BECAUSE IT WAS TOO HOT IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM?!

mom - I know, that was so cool. We always had the "legend of the lightning strike" story when we were kids. Apparently we still do!

yellojkt - Thanks, the laptop appreciates your sympathy.

waya - No, but there was a guy standing in lobby in just his boxers. Nothing else. Honest.

Heather said...

Cough cough. Yeah, that's probably it. Too hot in our hotel room. Yeah.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Karl said...

But you were TEMPTED to jump out the window, right? Come on, give me something exciting after all those loud alarms and stuff.

Jenny said...

No fire rescue for burt-out laptops, huh?

We have so many fire alarms where I work over burnt popcorn that I don't even hear them anymore.

It's okay, Sweetie said...

First, you're a lucky bastard that blogger lets you upload pics. I've given up on that.

Second, the whole babies out the window thing? I kept thinking Michael Jackson was there too.

Onetallmomma said...

Yikes! Now I'm glad you weren't in the jacuzzi. Fumbling madly for your p.j.'s in the dark with the fire alarm wailing while soaking wet would not have been fun!

but Momma said...

Honestly! And my husband can't figure out why I like to sleep fully dressed? What if there was a fire?