September 6, 2011

Heroic or Serendipity?

I tweeted about my possible upcoming bone marrow donation and a friend essentially called me a hero for being so willing to do this.  Inconveniencing yourself to possibly save someone's life isn't a heroic act in my book.  If anything I'd chalk this up to a logical move and at best, banking some good karma.

I could use some karma.

Yes, I know karma isn't a "bank" that you can make deposits and withdrawals from. A fellow Toastmaster gave a great speech regarding karma that did an excellent job in solidifying what karma is...at least in my mind.  I asked for a copy of the speech, but this Toastmaster pretty much does all of his speaking "off the cuff".  It works for him, but no karma definition for my future reference.

I also play in several Role Playing Games (RPGs), most notably HackMaster.  While not every PC (player character) is heroic, a lot of them try to be.  A lot of Gamers have this fantasized concept of heroism that revolves around thwarting evil and saving people in distress.

In the real world, the best we can usually aspire to is overcoming lesser evils and keep from being distressed.  Occasionally an opportunity to "step up" comes along and then....maybe....we can be heroic.  In my opinion, one can not intentionally perform heroic acts.  Heroism is a judgement call from others after you've done something.  Sometimes heroism is doing something very, very stupid and just lucking out.

Have I ever mentioned I am unusually lucky?  Not necessarily winning-the-powerball lucky, but I have won more than my fair share of dumb-luck contests.  Serendipity is probably the best word for it.  More often than not I just luck out.  Like the time I accidentally placed my bosses passport in my briefcase which I FedExed back to the office instead of hand carrying it back to the office.  I was supposed to send it off to a Consulate, but the boss changed his plans and was PISSED that I couldn't just hand him his passport, which was supposed to be out of my hands for weeks.  Had it to him a day later.

Serendipity happens a lot to me and I'm glad.  One time (September 2009) I was scheduled to go on a week-long trip to Florida for work.  I had asked a couple of times if I needed to be there a day earlier for a special event and was told "no".  Of course my Boss, same boss as above, decided last minute that he did want me there a day early so I could work the special event instead of his having to do that.  This event was in West Palm Beach, FL and because I live in Boise, there is a very small window for being able to get there in time if you want a last minute change.  Outside of chartering a Leer jet that was already on standby, it just wasn't going to happen.  I spent the morning getting chewed out while looking at impossible flight routes.

In the past my wife has attended this conference with me, but this year she cannot, which is fine since I'm making several other business visits after the conference, driving up the coast to the Orlando area and Atlanta.  Since I'm gone a week I decide to take her to Outback Steakhouse for a nice dinner.


Photo-Shopped Picture, but visually accurate
We were driving up Cole we noticed a large plume of black smoke rising up from one of the neighborhoods. I know well enough what that amount and color of smoke means....it's not someone burning trash! We also quickly surmized it was the Chateau de Boise, which is where Carolyn's 101 year old grandmother lives.

We do a quick turn and pull up just as another couple is getting there. We see two people calling the fire in on their phone and I run into the building with my wife somewhere behind me. I run up to the manager, who evidently just got notified her building is on fire. She asks if I'm "Fire Department", to which I simply answer, "no, but you need to evacuate". Another employee tells the kitchen staff and someone says it's on the third floor. A quick scan of the dining room doesn't reveal grandmother so I turn back to the front and my wife.

"Stay here" is all I remember saying.....call me what you want, but I had only two thoughts: 1) Grandmother lives on the thrid floor and 2) I didn't want her following me since I didn't know what was going on.

I run upstairs to find I'm the first one there as I go over to grandmother's room and bang away at the door. Two emplolyees and another guy off the street (One of the people guy calling it in at the front) come up and head down another hall. Grandmother doesn't answer so I try the door, which thankfully is unlocked. She's not there and I bang on her neighbor's door. It is locked.

I went down the hall and see the one guy off the street come out of the back exit stairwell with a small 5 pound fire extinguisher. "It too much" he says and exits out the hall and off the level. I remember thinking, "No #### sherlock, I could have told you that from the smoke". Smoke is filling the hallway, but it's just annoying. One about-useless employee opens a single door to check for inhabitants and then opens up an empty apartment and walks out the balcony to look at the fire. Moron. I'm banging on doors and the fire alarm finally goes off.

I later learn it only went of because my wife, along with some other women from off the street pressure the manager to set the alarm off and start evacuation.

Meanwhile, the alarm is blaring and Moron goes to leave the hallway. I command, for lack of a better word, Moron to come back and open the remaining two doors of occupied units in the hallway so I can check for occupants.  Some doors were marked that the units were unoccupied, but there were residents in the third floor hallway above the fire.

After ensuring the hallway is clear I work my way back to the middle section near grandmother's room and check the remaining doors. This area is even louder as there are several alarm units here. A second employee comes around the corner from the other wing and tells me I need to leave. On my last door of this middle section, a resident comes out. Poor guy, he has no clue there is a fire and didn't even notice the alarms, even though he can't really hear me over them.  I suspect he's deaf, or at least as deaf as I was from the alarms, so he doesn't have any way of knowing.

The second employee comes over and escorts the gentleman to the stairwell while I go to the remaining hallway to check for residents. I only get to a couple rooms when the manager pops out of a room and tells me the rest of the East hallway is clear. A fireman arrives and tells us to go...so I go, but not before making sure the old guy is down before me and I get a chance to direct a couple more firemen on my way.

The fire was actually on the second floor, but of course went up before it really went out. The smoke was just bad enough to give me a bit of a cough. We found grandmother just as we were leaving the building. She was sitting in a chair just inside the front door having the time of her life. I asked her several times if she wanted us to take her to her son's house just down the road, but she was a bit confused, which is normal for her. She didn't recognize me for a while, but when she did she told us she was having a good time and "isn't this exciting".

We went out to the car and met up with my brother-in-law and his wife. They live only a couple blocks away and heard all the fire trucks.  We filled them in quickly and I made it a point to tell them if grandmother wants to leave, make sure they inform a manager first.

Then we went to Best Buy and out to Outback. We stopped back in at the Chateau on our way home to say "hi". The parental in-laws had come over and we discussed the night's events.  In the end Boise sent over 6 engines and 2 ladder trucks. 40 People are displaced, but grandmother and her apartment were just fine.  Of course the fire made the news, and I got some of my numbers wrong, but I could only find one article:

Cigarette cause of retirement home fire

BOISE - Fire investigators said Sunday that an unattended cigarette is to blame for a second alarm fire at a local retirement home.

Investigators believe the cigarette belonged to a person visiting the home.

"The first-in companies did an excellent job of knocking the fire down quickly," said Boise Fire Battalion Chief Steve Rasulo. "The next arriving crews, who were there within seconds, did a great job of evacuating residents and getting everyone to safety."

The fire to the Chateau de Boise retirement home on the 7200 block of Poplar Street was called in at 6:04 p.m. Saturday, and quickly went to second alarm. Seven engines, two truck companies and command and support personnel responded.

Fire investigators believe the unattended cigarette ignited the fire on the wooden third floor balcony. When flames ignited a carpet on the deck, the fire spread to the 2nd floor balcony directly beneath. Flames then spread to the adjacent 3rd floor apartment, which activated the sprinkler system.

Firefighters evacuated about 30 residents from the wing of the home impacted by the fire. Several staff members and visitors were also evacuated.

Two people were sent to the hospital during the incident; one, a staff member was treated and released for smoke inhalation; a resident of the home fell during the evacuation and was transported for observation. The resident's condition is not known.

Staff of the retirement home relocated the displaced residents to a nearby hotel for the night.

Fire damage was limited mainly to the exterior of the building. Water damage from the sprinklers and firefighting efforts did damage the interior.


I suffered hearing loss for a day or so from the alarms and the small amount of smoke inhalation didn't bother my lungs much, but they did bother my armpits...a lot.  At the time I was on a HCG diet, which involves some serious detox issues when you loose so much weight so quickly.  Everyone is a little different, but for me any detox issues were shown through my armpits, which were generally a little swollen and sore during the diet.  For the week after the fire though they got very red and swollen, feeling almost scabbed over because I was sweating out this noxious.....I guess you could call it "stuff".  It wasn't pleasant, whatever it was, that's for sure.


At the conference I told the story...once. A group of us were waiting for cars to be pulled around so we could go offsite and someone had heard I had a little excitement the day before.  My boss was in the group and when I told this story he did not believe a word of it.  I said something to the effect that I thought I was meant to be in Boise that Saturday night, but he was still pissed I couldn't drop everything and get to Florida at a snap of his fingers.


Reminds me.....anyone have any job prospects they could push my way?  I'm a bit on the lucky side and generally good in an emergency.  For any other work details I'd direct you to my LinkedIn page.




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