Wednesday, May 26, 2004


There was a fire alert today at work. Only it was not a fire, it was a chemical spill which closed the building for more than 5 hours. I didn't have my keys with me so I was stuck outside with no possibility of going home early. So I watched the ballet of all the different groups of people working to neutralize the fumes that had taken over our building.
The different units and the man supervising them all. A major with an impeccable white shirt, a large mustache and a shining badge that gave his name and his rank.
His HQ set up at the end of a small truck. All done methodically, with a meticulous attention to details. Talking over walky-talkies in some coded language: "You'll take the 48 and make sure you've get the 22 all clear". All seems so serious, so professional. I am impressed despite myself. I listen to them talking in their radio about the crew and think about matters of life and death. A few minutes later, I see one guy coming with iced water and paper cups. The major goes to the front of his truck and came back with a diet coke. No iced water for him. He is the boss.

A woman comes to claim that the medication she needs before 3 PM is in her bag she left in her office. Less than 20 minutes later, the bag is retrieved and given to her.
I thought that I should have used that same excuse "My medication is in my bag". Lying to get my bag back quickly and leave.

The hazmat team is coming back from the building. I see them taking showers in their space suits. Everything will be over soon. I think about the day I understood what "Hazmat" meant. About 4 years ago, I was driving, saw the sign and acknowledged its meaning. Just like that. I still remember the feeling of triumph over the language. As if it was slowly getting to me, drop by drop like blood.


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