Ed Note: Recycled post from Nov 2004. Rediffblogs is gobbling up my old posts, so have to shift these here, and this seems to be the only way. Please bear with me.
Anyone who has worked or interacted with an agency would know that “Work on fire” is probably the most used and abused terms of all time. But what happens when the work is on fire…literally?
Yesterday at about six fifteen in the evening, my next-door colleague suddenly sniffs the air and says “kuch jal raha hai”. I obtusely grappling with a more-than-an-ordinarily testing statistical chart snap back “Haan mera dimaag pakh ke jal raha hoga”.
Two minutes later, the gentleman wiggles his nose again and says, “ I’m serious! I can really smell something burning”. Burning smells are much more interesting than correspondence maps so I get up to investigate.
Our work-bay is filled with this nightmarish maze of electronic/electric circuitry. So we periodically give Cassandra-ish predictions that someday, someone is going to get burnt to a cinder. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that there is a spark around us. We duly search for the source. Nothing.
Next step is to check boss’ cabin that has this hideous piece of antiquity, which is euphemistically labeled as an air conditioner. That also seems to be in its normal rattle-shake-wheeze-some-gusts-of-cold-air condition.
Holler for the IT guy and tell them that there is a spark somewhere and curse him a bit for all the wires and rant about dangerous workstations and why is our department meted out step-child treatment. While the gentleman is on his knees examining the machines, someone yells from the corridor that there is this actual true blue (er.. red) fire happening in one of the rooms on the other side of the wall from us.
In about five minutes, the entire office is standing (far away from the danger zone of course) in the corridor right outside where media planning sits and watching the fire with the rapt attention normally reserved for Cannes winners. No panic, no screaming, no worry, just pure, unadulterated enjoyment of a show one is hardly ever privileged to see: - namely, a fire in a storeroom, people clambering on desks trying to break windows, and lot of people running up and down with fire extinguishers (that they don’t have a clue about how to operate).
Smartass comments from my office people commence (The media outfit is a part of, yet not a part of my agency. It’s a sister agency, but we share the same office, the same cafeteria, and often work together with the same clients. However, the creative wing and media are not exactly on very amicable terms, largely due to gallons of blood shed over the pool table and first playing rights on the same).
“Ah, we always knew that these media people had a lot of hot air in them”
“Bung a few of them inside will you!”
Suddenly someone (probably HR, who is a normally slow burning …er bulb I mean) realize that, the fire poses health hazards to the poor hapless employees. So the process of evacuation starts. By this time, all the electric mains have been switched off, so we are all grappling in the dark going back to workplaces to salvage bags and baggage. By this time, our desks and places are completely filled with smoke. Dramatically, we go to get the bags out- coughing, and with tears streaming down our eyes. Mind you, there is still no urgency except for the HR who is screaming up and down the corridors like banshees trying to get us out as quickly as possible. And then everyone is bunged out of office (some really smart people, instead of walking down the four flights of stairs took the lift - in an electric fire!).
Sporadic comments overheard on the stairway
“First time in my life I actually want to stay in office and they are sending us home!”
“It’s a conspiracy I tell you, other agencies were jealous of our work” (Followed by extremely loud and derisive hoots of laughter by everyone around)
The firefighters have already reached by the time we reach downstairs. The entire office is again assembled on the grounds craning their necks to see real firemen in action.
Client calls start. The statement of “Uhm…our office caught fire today, don’t think tomorrows work will happen” gets a medley of reactions
Fires will happen, cyclones will happen, doesn’t mean work can stop can it”
“What all excuses you people give - I have also worked in an agency remember, you always say there is a fire or some thing”
“Okay, send me a mail and cc my boss that you can’t work”
“Yes of course, the work is on fire, we need to catch the publication at six o clock!!!”
“Tu mar war nahin gaya na?” (Said in tones of extreme regret)
And this interaction that happened in the middle of the evacuation process. Accounts fellow meets colleague in the corridor while everyone is trying to leave. “Here is the duplicate bill you had asked for”. Colleague looks at him and puts the bill into his bag. Sometime later, they meet again downstairs. The Accounts guy asks, “You have the duplicate bill kept properly don’t you? I will NOT give you another copy if you are burnt upstairs!”
Hot place to work? You betcha!
P.S. We all ended up at office today, but couldn’t do any work whatsoever since switching on anything electric was considered unsafe. So there was cricket in the corridors, gossip in the cafeteria and generally a good time to be had by all.