Based on a true story about a lowly department store administrative assistant….
“EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!”
Oh no! There must be a fire! My eardrums! I jumped up from my desk.
“EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” I have no time to walk around my desk! The shortest way is always a straight line. I climbed up “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” on top of my desk and tripped over the lamp cord and fell.
Oh, poop! I got a rug burn! But it’s of “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” no consequence!
I staggered up and ran past the other offices “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” to the fire exit. I pushed through—oh no! “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” Four stories straight down! I’m going to fall! I’m dizzy!
“EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” I started down as fast as I could. Ah, yes! Second floor landing! One more to go—” EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!”—almost there!
Yes! I reach the door! I’m not going to die here! “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” I push. No! Oh poop! It won’t open! Help! Help! Poop!
“EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” I pushed and pushed and pushed! Not a budge! Oh no! I will die here! One last push—”EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!”—no luck! I have to go back up to the second floor!
I go back up. Yes! The second floor door is open! “EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” Yes! Yes! To the exit! Fast!
“EEEEP! EEEEP! EEEEEEP!” I push the door! Yes! Freedom!
I doubled over and gasped fresh air and looked around. I wasn’t sure where exactly I had come out of the store. After a minute, I oriented myself and ran for the meeting point by a neighboring building. As I approached, I saw everyone was there, waiting, probably, for me.
“Oh!—Thank God!—gasp—the fire—gasp—are all of you okay?—gasp—”
“You’re the last one here.” My boss.
“Oh—why, the door—gasp—it was stuck shut—I hope that—”
“What do you mean it was stuck?”
The other employees were standing in little groups, chatting, a few looking at me.
“Why, it was stuck shut! I couldn’t budge it for anything—”
“Okay, so you’re the last one out, and you took too long.”
“But the door!—I had to go back up to the second—and then I didn’t know where I was—”
“I don’t care. So because of you, we’re going to fail the safety audit.” I could barely hear because the alarm had pierced my ears, but I thought I saw some of the others laugh. They had just escaped a fire! Why were they laughing?
“What do you mean—audit? What about the fire?—Is everyone out—”
She ignored me and turned back to the group.
“Okay. So now that we’ve failed another audit, we have to get back inside.” All proceeded to shuffle excitedly back towards the store.
Naturally, I was still upset. “Oh, wait!—Why, I hate to be the cause—but the door!—”
“I don’t care. We’ve all heard enough about the door. We’re going back in now. I need to see you when we get back up to the office.”
“Yes, ma’am…” I said as they all went past me. They were so calm. I itched my nails around my rug burn. No fire? When did they say there was a drill?
I went back up to my office and picked up the lamp I knocked over, and then I heard a loud voice.
“Are you there?”
“Why, yes—who’s there—?” One of the housekeeping employees emerged from a side office. He was very old, and… Oh no! Deaf!
I couldn’t do anything but stand there. Oh God, I hadn’t checked the other rooms! I had just run out of there to save my own skin, believing all the while that there really was a fire! Never thinking of another human being! What a monster I am! What to do now?
“What’s going on?” he asked loudly.
“Oh! Why, well—we had a little fire drill—no big deal, really—just to check—very routine.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Well… I am surprised no one told you.”
“No one told him what?” My boss.
“Why, uh, well—someone should have—well—I think I may have forgotten—”
“Did you forget to check the offices again?”
“No—well, yes—but the noise—my ears—”
“This is the third time. I’m writing you up. We’re not training you any more for this.”
I followed her back down to her office. The housekeeping gentleman stood by with his vacuum and watched us go past, not having heard a word we said, though no doubt he could tell it wasn’t anything good.
She shut the door and sat down at her desk. I remained standing.
“We failed another audit because of you.”
“Oh! I’m sorry! I–“
“I don’t care. First of all, you didn’t check the offices.”
“Yes, ma’am, I forgot, I was caught up—”
“I don’t care. Next, you were late to the meeting point.”
“But the door!—It was absolutely stuck! Why, I—”
“Why didn’t you put in a work order for it?”
“Well, I didn’t know about it until just then! I was—”
“Why didn’t you already know about it?”
“I’ve never been down there!—It was frightening! I—”
“I don’t care. They grade us on this. I am writing you up. Next time a door is stuck, you need to put in a work order immediately.”
Poop. I put my head down and looked at my rug burn. “Yes, ma’am…next time…work order…right away… yes…”