Saturday, January 20, 2007

Me and the Fire Department
A week or so ago, I got home from work a little early, and decided to get a jump on dinner before I went to pick my girlfriend up from her job. I had two pots going on burners, I was cooking rice in one pot, and stewing chicken in another pot. (I think I was stewing chicken. I had chicken broth in a pot and I was using the hot broth to cook the chicken. Stewing, right?)

Things boiled and/or stewed along nicely, then it was time for me to leave. I got myself together, and took some trash to the trash room, which is right across the hall from my apartment. My apartment door closed behind me. I needed to return briefly to the apartment, to turn the burners off. I put my key in the doorknob, and instead of doing what it had to do to let me in, the whole doorknob rotated. It's hard to describe, but the upshot of it was that the lock was broken. The more I tried to manipulate it, the more it broke. I wasn't getting in.

This was a quandary. It was 7:15PM, the building management office was closed. In one of many tenant-friendly policies, they've recently instituted a policy whereby if you are locked out when the office is closed, you're basically out of luck. You need to call a locksmith. Though I wasn't locked out (this will be a recurring theme), I thought it was logical to assume that management wasn't going to do much to help me in this situation, I didn't even know how I'd be able to reach them. And I was concerned, because two burners were on, which could possibly lead to a fire. Maybe this would take hours, maybe it would take 15 minutes. I didn't know.

I knew if I called a locksmith, it would take a while, and god knows what would happen with the stove. After trying the lock one more time, I dialed 411 on my cell phone and asked for the non-emergency fire department number. A fireman answered, and I explained my problem. He said I should hang up and call 911. So that's what I did. In the meantime, I found the "emergency" number for my building, and called that. That connected me to a guy in someplace like Bethesda, who never really could hear what I was saying, and didn't really seem to grasp the situation. I basically said, "I can't get into my apartment, the lock is broken, I've got the oven on and don't want to start a fire, and I've called the Fire Department."

Then I waited. Within 10 minutes or so, the firemen arrived. I told them what was up. I gave them my keys. They agreed -- the lock was broken. They then started using their various tools to try to pop the lock. They seemed to be having a harder time than they had expected, but I think they were starting to get into the challenge of it. All this time, I'm feeling particulary idiotic, because I know other people in my building are seeing what's going on and thinking that some idiot has called the Fire Department because he locked himself out of his apartment. People were walking down the hallway, saying "You're locked out?" "No," I'd reply, holding my keys up, "The lock's broken. And I've got burners on."

Then a building maintenance guy materialized. He waved a big ring of keys in the air. The firemen look at him and immediately said, "He's not locked out, the lock's broken." They understood! Then the building manager showed up. We have a long history of disliking each other, because she is completely incompetent. Two summers ago, I realized in early May that my air conditioning didn't work. I told her about this weekly for about six weeks. She sent a maintenance man up, always when I wasn't home, and would say that it would be fixed. That never happened. Finally, in late June, on a morning when the temperature in my apartment reached 90 degrees, I told her I would not leave the office until she came up to my apartment. As soon as she walked in, she said, "God, it's hot in here. We need to move you to another apartment." She said the building would pay for the movers. The movers, who she selected and booked, showed up, did their job, and told me how much they were owed. I sent them to the management office. It was a Friday morning, and the office, inexplicably, was closed. The movers weren't going anywhere until they got paid. I didn't blame them. So I gave them my credit card. By the afternoon, the office was open. I told the manager what happend, and, instead of thanking me for paying and telling me how to get reimbursed, she actually ridiculed me for paying them. Shows what kind of person she is. A bad one. There's also the incident where she refused to get the lifeguard an umbrella, which one of my neighbors suggested as a way to help prevent the poor guy from getting skin cancer. But that's another digression.

So the firemen were still trying to get in the door, and she showed up. She immediately looked at me, and said, "I can't believe you called the Fire Department because you locked yourself out!" "The lock is broken," I, and two of the fireman, yelled. I proceed to go off, explaining to her the situation, and telling her that I did what I did because I was concerned about a fire breaking out. "Well, no one's blaming you," she said. "You just were," I pointed out, as my face turned brighter shades of red, and the firemen laughed.

A few minutes later, by using, basically, increasingly bigger hammers, the lock was popped. The firemen quickly left, I thanked them and asked if I had to sign anything. I thought they might want to go into the apartment, to make sure there was no fire, but no. I think they just wanted to get away from the manager. I checked on the pots, they were simmering away, no problem. Shortly thereafter, my girlfriend and I were enjoying chicken and rice, as the maintenance guy installed a new lock.

So the Arlington Fire Department is high on my list. They managed to take care of the problem, kindly and efficiently and without making me feel like a jerk. And my building manager is even lower on my list. I took the whole episode as some kind of sign -- I need to move.


cleavers44 said...

That is a classic story. Here's hoping I never encounter your building manager.

tadcranky said...

She's truly evil. We've had a broken elevator for like three months. Doesn't really bother me, but there are a lot of old people in my building. When you ask her when it will be fixed, she says that the part has to come from California, like California is a place so strange and far away that we can't even envision it. I picture the people from Futurama loading up their ship with elevator parts from this strange planet they call California.

Albert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albert said...

You had a very uncomfortable situation. Emergency locksmiths are playing very important role. One month ago I locked myself out of my apartment. And I called to locksmith company. They said that locksmith will come in 30-40 minutes. He came and opened my door in 10 minutes. So, the locksmith was very handy for me in this tight situation. Another case, my sister locked her 2 year old niece in the car at church. luckily the locksmith company office is right next door.