Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Burn, Baby, Burn
It certainly wasn't my idea, but some bright spark at work has just appointed me a Fire Warden. This is not a career move of my own choosing. It's come about because of a requirement for each of the seven floors in our building to have a permanent staff-member acting as warden. And, unfortunately, I'm the only sucker on our floor who falls into that category.

I can't even take care of myself after two Stellas, let alone be held responsible for the lives and safety of twenty-odd agency co-workers. And the fact my so-called hi-tech, "paperless" work-place is, of necessity, packed to the ceiling with the pulped, unread remains of several rainforests, our two extinguishers are designed only for electrical fires, and the office is conveniently located down the corridor from the staff kitchen and canteen, is inspiring in neither myself nor my colleagues any measure of confidence.

In the event of an emergency, I'm to "ensure a safe and orderly evacuation of the premises", which, I think, means doing my best Corporal Jones and excitedly urging everyone not to panic. Or mincing like Mister Humphries, shooing Tuesday night's trade off into the lifts (whoops, sorry, can't use the lifts, take the stairs) at closing time. To ensure maximum effectiveness, I also need to wear an identifying tabard, made of garishly fluorescent yellow plastic which I know will simply clash horrendously with the Nigel Hall shirts I wear for work.

Once everyone - apart from me - is safely out of the inferno that used to be my office, I'm to check out the loos for any straggling coke-heads, before battling through the toxic fumes and flames, and outside to the "Incident Controller" to confirm that every one of my staff is accounted for, and then to complete a report in triplicate.

However, if the blaze is "sufficiently small", then, according to the rule-book, I'm "allowed", and indeed more than welcome, if not positively encouraged, to tackle it myself.

Well, thank-you-ever-so-much, but dream on, my dears. I didn't want to be press-ganged into this sort of life-or-death responsibility in the first place. The slightest whiff of smoke, the faintest spark in the overhead lighting, and you won't see me for dust, OK?

However, give me some added danger money in the pay cheque each month, a slick MA1 fire-fighting jacket in which to pose, and, oh, toss in a couple of firemen for good measure, and then we'll talk. Otherwise, my dear, dear colleagues, you are all so much burnt toast.