Monday, February 25, 2008

friday night freak out, starring the arlington fire department

It's Friday. I had just had a meeting which went longer than meetings. Also, anyone who thinks it's a good idea to have a meeting on a Friday afternoon is very, very delusional. I get back to my office and it's time to go. The voice mail light on my phone is flashing red. Ugh, it's Friday, I think. I don't want to check it. It can wait until Monday.

I assume the message is Jesse, calling to see when I'll be home. I decide to call him when I get to the bus. Except I forget. He calls when I'm about to get off of the bus.

J: You need to get home. There was a fire in unit (insert neighbor's unit number here). I just spoke to building management and they said that the fire department had to break in to our place to see if the fire spread.

Me: OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. Is Nicky ok? (yes, the first thing I thought of was the cat, our little fur baby)

J: I don't know. I didn't ask. I'm sure he's ok.

Me: You didn't ask?

J: It was a 30 second phone call.

Me: I'll call you when I get home.


I was furious at Jesse for not asking about Dominick, but this was overshadowed by my extreme worry that something had happened to our baby.

When I get to the condo lobby, I am greeted by some residents of the floor below us. One of them asks me, "Did you hear?" I answer, "Yes, I just found out. And they couldn't even tell us if our cat was ok." She responded sincerely (she has a dog, so she understands), "I'm sure everything is ok. Good luck."

The elevator ride to the top floor is the longest one ever. My heart begins to pound and I feel as though it is going to come out of my chest.

I get to my floor where I am greeted by men in suits. I rush to my door and find that someone has bashed it in. The Suits come over and ask, "Do you live in (insert my unit # here)?" I turn to them and say, "Yes. Is my cat ok?" One of The Suits says, "Yes, he's ok, but a little shaken up." I open the door and can hear Nicky howling. "Meooooooowwwww," he cries and my heart starts pounding faster. I pick him up in my arms and kiss his little head. Oh thank goodness he's ok.

The Suits follow me in, explaining what happened, as I walk into the bedroom (the one room closest to the neighbor's unit). All I could hear is "Blah, blah, blah" as I inspect the damage. First, I notice that apparently a hurricane had gone through our bedroom too. My clothes are all over the bed, covered in plaster. The TV and stand had been tossed to the side. The XBox was thrown onto the bed. My make-up was everywhere but inside my make-up bag. My shelving unit had been broken apart and its pieces were all over the floor. As I proceeded through the mess, I took it all in. That was when I noticed the holes. The big one was in the ceiling above my closet. And the other one was in the wall above my closet. Pieces of wall and ceiling were on the floor. My heart sank to my stomach. Our home. Our poor little home was defaced. Scarred. I took a deep breath to calm down and regretted it. I realized then that the bedroom reeked of smoke.

the ceiling

the wall above my closet

I reminded myself of what was important. I kissed Nicky's furry little head again. At least he's safe.

It was then that I thought of my neighbor. I asked The Suits about him during a break in the "Blahs". "He's ok," they said. The Suits left soon after that. After all, it was Friday and they wanted to go home to their unblemished homes.

As soon as they left, I took Nicky into the kitchen and got his Fish Sticks (not real ones, but a kitty treat). I fed them to him one by one. Jesse and I have realized that this relieves our guilt whenever we feel responsible for traumatizing Nicky (we discovered this when we gave him a bath and he was really upset afterwards). I was hoping the treats would help us forget the afternoon from hell.

I got a fresh sense of perspective when I visited my neighbor to check up on him. He was fine, but his condo didn't fare so well. He had two giant makeshift sky lights in his living room ceiling and the wall between his kitchen and living room was nearly torn down.

Our neighbor told me how it all happened. He had a leaky faucet in his kitchen. Building management sent over a maintenance guy (not a plumber) to fix it. He used a blowtorch for whatever reason. The flame traveled up the pipe and through the pipe trail in the walls of his place. When he saw that there was smoke coming from the wall between his kitchen and the living room, our neighbor called 911.

Despite his home looking like a war zone, our neighbor took it well. He came over to our place where we had pizza and beer and played with Nicky.

We're hoping to have the holes patch up this week. And after that, I will only have the memory of the scare of my life to remind me of this day.

23 comments:

Mme. Meow said...

Oh my goodness HOW SCARY!!!

I'm glad you're all okay, esp. Nicky, but how horrible it must have been for you both.
Sending hugs your way.

Shannon said...

If that's the "scare of your life" you're pretty blessed! I love cats, but they're still animals. Shouldn't you have first asked about your neighbor, who is a human being?

I do seriously feel bad for you, but the priorities laid out here are rather striking. Cat-stuff-neighbor, in that order.

lizzie said...

madame meow: thanks for the support as always! :)

shannon: actually, if you read this blog long enough, you'll know that i tend to exaggerate quite a bit. that's certainly not the scare of my life, but it was quite a big scare.

also, my conversation with jesse wasn't so short. we actually talked along my walk home and he informed me that my neighbor was ok. yes, the first thing i thought of was the cat, which i have an emotional attachment to, and the least of my worries was our stuff. i've seen my neighbor maybe three times since i moved in two years ago, so i don't really know him but was still concerned.

and then we spent several hours with him so that he wouldn't be stuck in his place while they cleaned it. so yeah, i'm a selfish bitch who only cares about her cats, i guess. especially since none of our other neighbors stopped by.

Shannon said...

I never called you a "selfish bitch", I was just pointing out that the order was a bit odd - cat/stuff/human being. It's indicative of a larger American problem where we fuss and spend way too much money and energy over animals.

Like, the other day, I read a newspaper article about a dangerous dog registry, and about a woman whose dog was attacked, to the tune of $13,000 in vet bills. $13,000 is a new car, a boatload of supplies for a third world school, or a year of college.

They're animals. They're lovely companions, but they're not people.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Glad you are ok, your neighbor is ok and your kitty is ok.

I don't really agree with what Shannon is saying here, but I really don't know her, but as someone who rescues kitties like I do, those little balls of fur give you unconditional love. I understand why people feel the way they do about pets and why they spend so much. I know I have spent a small fortune on 2 of mine.

Anyway hope your place get back to normal soon.

lizzie said...

shannon: i know you didn't say that, but it was inferred on my part. and i know this wasn't the point of your comment, but i don't see how you can figure out exactly what my priorities are from this post. yes, i said the cat was the first thing on my mind, but there's a reason for that. i didn't put my personal belongings above my neighbor. it makes perfect sense to me that i checked out my place before i went to see how my neighbor was doing. so yes, i made sure nicky was ok, noticed our place was trashed, and then went to check on my neighbor.

also, i've grown up with pets and i do value them. would i buy a $1000 designer pet carrier bag to carry nicky around in? no. would i pay $1000 for a life-saving surgery for nicky? yeah, probably. there's a difference.

CH 20210: you rescue kitties? you're my new hero!

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

yes - I have 4 kitties, 3 of which are rescues. 2 of them I was supposed to find homes for, but I got attached to them. I will make a post about Nermal the miracle cat sometime this week. yes, I know 4 is way too many, but I have 2 carpet cleaners, 1 dyson and scoop everyday. :-)

Shell said...

I am so glad everyone is okay!!! Sounds like the "maintenance" guy needs to attend a few plumbing courses.

And as a mommy to my dog (yes, I say mommy and not owner), I completely understand your concern. Clearly Shannon has never had a pet, or attachment to one, as most people with pets know that to us they are as important. (as I just had a $250 vet bill last week and didn't think twice about it)

And having known you as long as I have, I know you were extremely concerned about your neighbor, but also wondering if your cat somehow escaped or suffered smoke inhalation.

And it shows just how caring you are that you invited your neighbor in for what was most likely the scare of HIS life.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shell. Either you get it about animals or you don't. thank goodness everything turned out ok. ~erika

Anonymous said...

By the way Shannon, if someone wants to spend $13,000 of their own money on their animal that's their business. You spend money on a high speed internet access, don't you? Cant that money go to feeding a hungry family instead? How much do you spend on clothes and shoes every year beyond what is absolutely necessary to keep yourself warm? What about drinking and partying on the weekend? Thought so.~erika

lizzie said...

CH 20210: 4 kitties! wow! sounds like the carpet cleaners are a necessity. i may start coming to you for kitty advice. can't wait to read about nermal's story. are you a foster mom?

shell: thanks for the support. and i hope your baby is ok. nicky has been battling a cold lately so it just breaks my heart to hear him sneeze and sniffle. so i hope you haven't been stressed over the health of your baby.

erika: thanks for the support and yes, i'm glad everything turned out ok.

also, i honestly don't think shannon has had much experience with animals.

Shannon said...

"also, i honestly don't think shannon has had much experience with animals."

Nope. Oh, wait, except for two dogs (one of which saved my life as an infant), a cat (was inconsolable when he died), two parakeets, plus I grew up riding horses. So hear me out, instead of assuming I'm a hateful puppy kicker or emotionally stunted.

I find animal attachment a bit overblown. I love animals, but they're not a substitute for people.

Lizzie, I never said you cared more about your cat than your neighbor, I pointed out that the priorities in your post were unusual and perhaps skewed. I apologize if you misunderstood.

As for this one, "By the way Shannon, if someone wants to spend $13,000 of their own money on their animal that's their business."

Except that the dog is STILL partially paralyzed. Dropping 13K so an animal can have a lousy quality of life is absurd. If you're spending that much cash, the animal is so ill or injured that you're doing them a disservice by keeping them around. It becomes about you not wanting to let go, not about the well-being of your pet. And if you love your pet so damn much, prove it by being selfless and not making them suffer so you don't have to grieve.

"You spend money on a high speed internet access, don't you?"
No.

"Cant that money go to feeding a hungry family instead? How much do you spend on clothes and shoes every year beyond what is absolutely necessary to keep yourself warm? What about drinking and partying on the weekend? Thought so.~erika"

Hrm, that's a lot of judgment considering you never met me. I'm a temp and live on an extremely lean budget. I think a lot of people, once they get a little money, lose sight of common sense. Which is why so many Americans are in ridiculous levels of debt.

I am amazed at the level of passion about all this - and don't really mind playing devil's advocate. (Of course, demonizing me by saying I kick puppies or whatever is the price you pay...it's unreasonable and ridiculous to expect the whole world to agree with you.) Anyways, thanks all for your insights.

Anonymous said...

Shannon, you are a bit ingenious in your arguments. You say some pretty disparaging things about Lizzie that yes do make her come off as sounding like she is a bitch who only cares about her cat. Then you respond with 'that's not what I said' when she calls you on it when in fact that is exactly what you said.

As for your lean budget, most of us are on one too, or should be (no one ever saves enough money). But in this country, unless you are working for min wage and supporting kids, there is always room for big or small luxuries. How we spend that money is no one else's business. ~erika

Shannon said...

...Unless you're spending $13K of that money to keep a partially paralyzed, suffering animal alive because you don't want to let them go. What's wrong with pointing out hypocrisy?

What I find interesting is that people say they love their pets for providing unconditional love...if they love you unconditionally anyway, it's a bit ridiculous to buy them fancy things they don't care about. Vet bills are another matter - it's fine to shell out, I've done it myself. But if an animal is THAT far gone, let it go.

As for the first part, I can see how I'd be misintrepeted, which is my own fault for not being more clear.

Here's the original comment:

"I do seriously feel bad for you, but the priorities laid out here are rather striking. Cat-stuff-neighbor, in that order."

That was the order of the post - panic about the cat, check out her apartment, then check on the neighbor. It's not necessarily how I think Lizzie sees the world, because I don't live inside her head.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, people are being really harsh on Shannon. Agree to disagree or whatever, but don't start personal attacks-she didn't, Shannon just observed something about her priorities, as stated in the post-nothing to start calling her names for or for assuming anything of her life (kick puppies or whatever).

I have pet(s) to, but I don't fault Jesse for not thinking of their new cat right away, esp with a 30 second conversation with the building manager or who ever. And I don't fault Lizzie for thinking of her cat right away- to each their own priorities-Jesse's, Lizzie's, Shannon's or whomever.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Lizzie - I used to be a foster mom, but after keeping sydney and nermal - I was getting attached. I will take in a stray every once in awhile and find it a home. I used to work part time at a 24hour emergency vet for 2 years, so if you have any questions - please feel free to ask me - happy to help.

lizzie said...

shannon: no one who commented said that you kick puppies. ok, so we both made assumptions about each other that were wrong. i'll admit that. but i feel that you did make an assumption on my priorities with that comment: "Cat-stuff-neighbor, in that order." just because that is the order of how they appeared in the blog doesn't mean that's how i value them. still, the cat was tops on my list. i stand by that. i'm sorry, but if you had heard there was a fire in your neighbor's apartment and you weren't sure about the damage to yours although you knew the fire dept was in your place, wouldn't you check your place out first?

also, this person who spent $13000 on his/her dog for surgery that doesn't even improve his/her dog's life IS probably having a hard time letting go. but i don't know the whole story.

erika: i'm not exactly rolling in the dough either. with what i have, i volunteer and donate to the community. and yes, we adopted a cat, whom i've grown to care about very much. i don't think that makes me a bad person.

shannon: you've left a not-so-positive comment on this blog before, so i read your comment as judging me. i don't expect everyone to agree with me (b/c what's the fun in that?). but i was looking for a bit of understanding here, not judgment.

anon: yes, peeps. let's just let this go. to quote the fabulous tina turner, i don't want to fight no more.

CH 20210: oh wow. i considered fostering, but i figured i would get attached and not let go. and thank you for being available for questions. although nicky is quite the happy kitty right now, i may turn to you if something comes up.

Shannon said...

"you've left a not-so-positive comment on this blog before"

I stand by that "not-so-positive" comment, as you term it, because I think I and the other posters who weighed in were very positive, thoughtful and constructive, we just vehemently disagreed with you.

As for the pets issue, I'm all for dropping it. And, Lizzie and others, you are always welcome to stop on over on my blog to agree and disagree as you wish.

Anonymous said...

I think you misunderstood me. I've had as many as five animals at one time -usually strays that show up on my doorstep - and have spent WAY to much money on them, according to other people's assessments. The point I was making is that I am not financially dependent on anyone, not a burden on the state, pay my taxes etc all of which means I can do what I want with the rest of it. So can you. I didnt mean you were a bad person because you have a cat. Boy, who would have thought pet ownership could get so contensious. ~erika

Shannon said...

"Boy, who would have thought pet ownership could get so contentious. -erika"

Sort of proves my original point that people are a bit on the overkill side when it comes to affection/indulgence of pets...

Ok. Stopping now. I swear.

lizzie said...

shannon: yes, and that's perfectly fine. but that was the first comment you made on my blog, so that's all i had to go by. and you are most definitely entitled to your own opinion and i have to respect that.

erika: if you're commenting about what i said, i think you misunderstood me. i completely and whole-heartedly agree with you and the comments you've made on this post. i was just giving my version of what you had previously stated.

shannon: ha! it's who you are. don't change on our account. unless you're wrong, of course. :)

intellileg said...

People's reactions in moments of crisis will reflect on the things they have emotional attachment to and care about -- be it people, animals or things (like laptops...).

I have two issues with this debate, both very different and also contradictory, but let's not go into that!

1. It's a version of the old question of what one thing would you take if you were going to be stuck on a desert island? Unless someone's answer directly affects your wellbeing, you don't really have a say.

2. Nicky was not capable of getting out of the flat -- the neighbour was. I would not be as panicked about my cats in the case of a fire because we live on the ground floor and have open windows and a cat door, so the cats can get out if needed. Liz's concern about her cat trapped in a flat with a fire alert is 110% understandable.

intellileg said...

People's reactions in moments of crisis will reflect on the things they have emotional attachment to and care about -- be it people, animals or things (like laptops...).

I have two issues with this debate, both very different and also contradictory, but let's not go into that!

1. It's a version of the old question of what one thing would you take if you were going to be stuck on a desert island? Unless someone's answer directly affects your wellbeing, you don't really have a say.

2. Nicky was not capable of getting out of the flat -- the neighbour was. I would not be as panicked about my cats in the case of a fire because we live on the ground floor and have open windows and a cat door, so the cats can get out if needed. Liz's concern about her cat trapped in a flat with a fire alert is 110% understandable.