When my parents learned I was moving to California, they were pretty stunned. When I mentioned Los Angeles, one of their first questions was which side of the San Andreas fault I’d be living on. Now that my workplace has moved to Westwood, CA, even closer to the beach (and even farther from the ‘good’ side of the San Andreas fault), I now work on the 10th floor of a 24-floor building – the tallest office I’ve ever had, and boy the view is nice up here. I’m sure after “September 11th”, anyone working much above the 2nd or 3rd floor of a tall building feels some sense of subconscious worry when they step in an elevator.
For me, today was a day that made me question things like that: we had a fire alarm get triggered (they said dust in an area of construction on one of our floors activated a smoke sensor). Since I was not yet fully moved into this office location because the company moved the same weekend I got married, I was confused by some of the training meetings that I received numerous Emails about, and didn’t get the opportunity to attend any meetings or classes on what to do if an emergency happened. Thankfully, a guy who sits about 6 feet from my desk is the floor “warden” and directed us all through a door leading to stairs. Lots of stairs. And walkways and hallways and more stairs, and finally – light at the end of the tunnel leading to the front of the building, where 8 of us stood in the bright sunlight of a California afternoon.
And we waited.
We made small talk, joked about the other nearly 100 employees of our own company, let alone the other people that occupy the 24 floors in this building, and I sipped the coffee I’d managed to take down 10 flights of stairs without spilling a drop. I joked about how if I were in college, this would be about the time I’d head to my car and leave for the day, but considering that I currently park two floors under the building I’d just evacuated, it wouldn’t have helped, I’m sure. We watched the fire truck pull up, guys get into their gear, and meet a security guard out front. About this time, another dozen of my coworkers stumbled out of the door we’d come through minutes before. Okay, so about 20 of about 100 employees survived. Maybe I’d get a better desk facing a window…
If this were grade school, we’d have been yelled at by our teachers for not exiting the building in a timely fashion. Or standing in a perfectly straight, and perfectly silent line, sorted by last name.
We were told by the fire department and the security guard that it was all clear to go back into the building, and that’s where we met our CEO, who told us all to go to the back parking lot – where we found the missing 80-or-so employees of the company. They looked at me wandering out with my cup of coffee and joked about how it took me so long to get out to their side of the building because I stopped for a coffee on the way out. The only person I could see doing something like that is my dad, who I love despite his overwhelming and very much empassioned addiction to caffeine.
Having to get up from my desk in a hurry made me thing about the things I treasure most and stuff into my backpack to leave the building in a hurry. I grabbed the photo of Elizabeth and I from Christmas 2003, my laptop, my new camera, and my cell phone. Left behind were my favorite bud earphones, my container of mint waxed floss, my /dev/mug and geek shotglass, and other geek toys, not to mention my little Canadian flag which has no home since we don’t seem to be able to stick pins in the walls of this new cubicle setup. Maybe I’ll tape it to the side of my PC case or something…
So we all file back into elevators (crammed full I might add, prompting one employee to question how many pounds we all weigh and whether the 3000-lb rating of the elevator was a true test, or just a suggestion), and we all meander our ways back to our desks and continue working. About 10 minutes total after the security guard in front of the building okayed us to re-enter the building, we discover that there’s a central emergency broadcast speaker in the wall not far from my desk that repeated a message about how it was okay to re-enter the building and apologized for the inconvenience.
That was about an hour ago. /yawn