I walked into the office this morning and dropped two slices of bread into our antique toaster for breakfast. The toaster usually takes five minutes to induce a slice of bread to turn slightly brown, so I stopped by a friend’s desk, and we got into conversation. Right about the time I started to smell my toast, the fire alarm went off. The whole nine yards: flashing lights, blaring sirens. The entire corridor was blue with smoke. The thing that is supposed to pop the toast up when it’s done had failed.
I assume that people on the two upper levels of our three-level building followed the standard procedure and evacuated, thinking there really was a fire. A trio of my colleagues (who were on their way out anyway) left with a dramatic show of crouching, coughing, gagging, gasping—and, of course, laughing. The rest of my department stayed. I was mortified, though no one else (including the boss, fortunately) seemed to think it was anything but funny, and by lunchtime, when everyone had made at least one smart remark about it, I was laughing too.
The fire department showed up to reset the alarms—a fire engine bearing three firemen in full gear, carrying axes and oxygen tanks. The boss had called to let them know it wasn’t a real emergency, or I suppose they’d have come in with hoses; even without hoses, they were impressive. On balance, though, I think I made the right decision in not asking to have my picture taken with them.