attack the fire if possible

I should be working right now. Lord knows I have a lot to do. Too much to do. A crushing avalanche of todoness that threatens to bury me beneath its suffocating, all-encompassing grip. But instead, I’m wondering at the sign posted on the door of my hotel room. It’s the obligatory sign you often see, warning about blazing inferno danger and how to save oneself from an untimely fiery demise. I tend to scoff at the undue attention potential fires receive at hotels, as compared to say, the danger of a meteor crashing from the sky and falling through the building or a hellmouth opening under the hotel and unleashing the master from his underworldly prison.

My hotel stays of late have been marked by fires, or least fire alarms. And the lesson I have learned from them all is to ignore the door instructions and just stay in the room. And make sure you have good earplugs. During one lovely evening when I was peacefully sleeping in my so-called heavenly bed, alarms screamed through the room at 1:30 in the morning. I considered ignoring it, but it was really fucking loud. Fire alarms aren’t designed to be loud enough to wake you; they’re designed to be so annoying that you have no choice but to get as far away from them as you possibly can.

Fortunately, I was somewhat clothed and I sleepily found some shoes and my room key and my car keys and my purse. Hey, if I had to stand outside too long, I was going to find a new hotel for the night. We brave hotel guests stood outside in the cold (OK, not so much — it was California after all) and the dark and wondered if our temporary home would go up in flames, and if so, would we have to all wear pajamas to our morning meetings.

The fire trucks came. The firemen ran through with hoses and hatchets. The hotel employees stayed inside where it was warm. Some of us in the unenlightened crowed tried it but found the cold was vastly preferred to the screeching noise of doom and scurried back outside. Eventually, we all were able to return to our rooms. No details about the fire were forthcoming, but we got a vague sense that someone had set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen by burning toast.

Much more recently, I was staying at hotel in London that had an odd tendency to sound its fire alarms at random times, but only for short moments, so easily ignored. Until the time when I was packing up, when they sounded and refused to stop. And I thought, oh great. Someone has once again burned toast, and I won’t be able to get back into my room in time to pack up and make it to the airport. So, I stayed, packing, while the fires raged away and threatened to consume me at any moment. Until I couldn’t handle another second of the screeching that drilled into my brain and I fled down the stairs. I was on the 13th floor, which in British terms means fourteen flights up. When I reached the bottom, the wailing stopped and I trudged back up again. At least I made it to the airport on time.

But the door instruction in this hotel is a little different. Oh sure, it has the exit route and tells you to use the stairs and all that, but it ends with this helpful tip:

Attack the Fire if Possible

Good advice in any situation really. The formerly useless collection of hotel fire instructional doors has been redeemed.

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