Friday, August 6, 2010

We Didn't Start the Fire

In my dream, Phish is covering The Whipping Post by The Allman Brothers. It’s a brilliant sound and my friends and I are watching from the back of a pickup truck. We are discussing how this song is a tribute to us, and we smile as our names are called out. All of a sudden the band makes a mistake. It sounds like an alarm clock! Oh no, it was all a dream…but wait, I wake up, and that is no alarm clock sounding. The obnoxiously loud buzzer of a sound is coming from where, overhead? Out in the hall? It turns off and I debate going back to my dream, but impulse pulls me towards the door to look outside. A few other questioning heads poke out of their rooms. We all look at each other, make half-awake faces of, “do you know what’s going on?” and then return to our warm rooms. I crawl back into bed to continue my impressive 11 hour sleep (this bed is so comfortable!), but my body is now awake, so I get up to search for water outside. I am in the lobby when the noise sounds again. Still not comprehending it, I go back to my room where it’s quite. My peace is short lived. As I drop the key into the slot, the alarm starts up. It finally clicks in my sleepy mind that this is a fire drill! Slowly I move to the front entrance where everyone looks just as dazed and asleep as I do.

We are asked to move to the consolidation point, which is a sign about 30 feet away from the front door. People appear in all stages of morning routine: there are the business men, dressed and ready for the day, small bags on wheels toed behind them; there is a group of sales people whose conference was meant to start at 8am. Some of them are dressed in uniform, two over-sleepers are still in their pajamas, and one guy, clearly the attention seeker of their group, is barefoot with a towel wrapped around his waist and a huge bubble jacket. The salespeople ridicule this man, who seems to be in a position of power. He begins delegating responsibilities to people: “I will need your pants and your shoes, otherwise the two of you will have to run this meeting instead of me!”

The fire truck has been parked for some time now and people swirl around it, waiting for answers. The firemen have long ago run into the hotel in search of fire. They were on their way in as I was on my way out. It’s cold and I am glad that I brought the oversized gray sweatshirt from the free box back in our office. I am wearing my orange hippy pants, the grey sweatshirt, and my white jandals.

We wait outside in the cold New Zealand air and I think to myself how out of touch I am with technology. I think the only fire alarm that exists in Samoa is the one in the Peace Corps office. I certainly do not remember seeing any others.

We wait for about a half hour, all the while more people straggle out of the front entrance, ashamed to be the last ones out in this mini emergency. “I was in the shower!” one claims. Another “is just a heavy sleeper!” The fire is found, we wait a few more minutes, it’s put out, and we are ushered back into the hotel. There is a mad dash to the front desk of those who were planning to check out this morning. I glide back to my room, make some hot chocolate, and sit down to tell the tale.

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