Last week’s post got me to thinking of other travel “experiences,” so here’s another story that you might find amusing…
A number of years ago, I worked with a national nursing home company. I was a part of the corporate team, and when we traveled, we usually traveled with the Vice President over a particular region of the country. On this particular trip, I was traveling with two Vice Presidents (they were male…which will be important to know later on in the story). We were working at a facility in Chattanooga, TN, and were staying each night at a high-rise hotel in the downtown area. My room was on the 14th floor of the hotel. As is the case many times for me in hotels, I was having a little difficulty sleeping. There happened to be a huge thunderstorm going on, and I had my curtains open, enjoying the natural “light show.” It was actually very beautiful. It was about 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and I was laying on my bed, just enjoying the show.
All of a sudden, a strobe light near the ceiling of my room, starting going off and on, sirens and alarms began to sound, and an automated voice came over the intercom in my room saying, “Proceed to the nearest stairs and exit the building.” The voice kept saying this statement continuously, and seemed to get louder with each proclamation. Now, as a traveler, I have always prided myself in being safe. When I am assigned a hotel room, I always check to see where the nearest stairs are, and note which direction I should go if there were an emergency. In my mind, I have also gone over and over how I would make such an exit. I would get dressed comfortably (and quickly)…I would get my wallet…I would put comfortable shoes on my feet…I would check the door to make certain that it was not hot…and then I would exit to those stairs. I had rehearsed this time and time again in my head. So…the alarm was going off…and I panicked. I tried to call the desk to see if it was a false alarm, and there was no answer. I looked out my window, fourteen stories down to the street, and I saw fire engines pulling up to the hotel, and I heard peoples’ footsteps rapidly going down those stairs, and I saw people racing out of the hotel. I realized that this was real, that there was a fire, and that I. WAS. ON. THE. FOURTEENTH. FLOOR!!!
I used to sleep in a tee-shirt, so in my panic, I did not think to put anything else on…at least the most of me was covered…but I did need shoes…I could not find any “comfortable” shoes, but my high heels were laying there on the floor, so I thought, “well, that will be better than nothing.” I forgot the wallet…I checked my door to make certain that it was not hot (it wasn’t), and I opened it. Just as I opened my door, a man from across the hall opened his door. He was as prepared as I was…He had on a tee-shirt, boxer shorts, a suit coat, black socks and wingtip shoes. I was in my tee-shirt and high heels. We made quite the couple…I looked at him…he looked at me…and I said, “Let’s go!!” We joined arms and headed for the stairs. (And let’s remember that I had never laid eyes on this man ever before…) As we opened the stairwell door, we joined hundreds of people going down the stairs, trying to get out of the building before we were all burnt to a crisp! We happened to get behind a lady who was wearing a baby blue, chiffon negligee with matching slippers (with little pom-pom puffs on top of them), AND she had remembered her purse. She looked like a big ole’ ball of cotton candy floating down those stairs. We were so close behind her that her chiffon kept getting caught in our faces, and we kept having to bat it away. The other problem was that she was going too slow!! As we rounded another turn in the stairwell, I happened to look at the number on the door that we were passing. I looked at Mr. Boxer Shorts, and said, “We’re ONLY on the 7th floor!” He said, “I know! What should we do?” I looked at him with great determination, and said, “We’re just going to have to jump over her!!” She must have heard what I said, because, at that very moment, she got faster!!
We finally made it down to the bottom floor, and was about to exit, when I realized that it was pouring down raining outside, and all I had on was that little tee-shirt. The fear of actually burning motivated me to move on out into the rain no matter what!! I should not have worried, because everyone standing out in the rain was in the same situation as me…either little clothing at all, or all in disarray. We were just lucky to get out alive! I hugged Mr. Boxer Shorts, thanked him for accompanying me, and I went to find my two Vice Presidents. I was so glad to see them, and find that they made it out safely too, that I hardly minded that they continued to try and “read” my tee-shirt…We looked up, and saw hundreds of people up in their rooms looking down at us. Now, I have to ask you, what kind of person would be up on the higher floors of a hotel, look out their window, and see fire trucks, people in various stages of dress (and undress)…all standing out in the rain…and not move heaven and earth to get out of that hotel??? I found out later that when a fire is “discovered” in a hotel, the alarms only sound on the floor of discovery, the floor above, and the floor below. So, those people did not know why we were all outside!
They were able to contain the fire and we were allowed to return to our rooms for what was left of the night. The next morning I called my secretary and explained to her that we needed to make a change in my travel profile…to NEVER book me in a hotel room higher than the second floor. She said, “Oh, did something happen???”
Throughout our lives, people are placed in our paths. Some can help, support, motivate, love and make your life better. Others can slow you down, make you wait, keep you from attaining the goals that you have established for yourself. Still, there are others that can hurt and destroy you…suck the very life from you, and make you miserable. There is one key factor in this equation, and that would be you. You have the choice to allow those people to harm you, slow you down, help you, or love you…it is all within your power. I am going to either lead, follow, or simply get out of the way, but I do not intend to slow anyone down…or let them slow me down…I am going to love, support, inspire and motivate! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…