Tuesday, 25 August 2009

What would you take?

Just before 11 pm I heard a man banging on a door in the hallway. This building is old; all sounds in the hall echo around the stone walls. At first I thought it was just some drunk trying to get his friend to let him in. But behind the banging and the man's shouts came the tinny, repetitive screech of a smoke alarm.

Moving closer to my door, I heard the man talking loudly to another neighbour, using words like "smoke" and "not answering."

Turning around I threw on some clothes (I had been getting ready for bed) and grabbed up my wallet, my passport, my keys and my phone. (My passport was on my couch, having just arrived in the post).

Heading out into the hall, I found that one neighbour had already called the fire department. The man who had been banging on the door of the smoky flat joined us and we tried to establish who the people were who lived in the flat. Another woman came out onto the landing and said it is a couple, and they have a baby.

The first siren indicated that the fire trucks were arriving. Four of them hurtled down our street like land-locked bees, barely coming to a stop before firemen began jumping off, pulling on their oxygen masks and unrolling hoses.

I stood outside the building while the firemen worked. It was soon clear that it had just been some burning food and nothing threatening. I still don't know if the people were home and just not answering the door, or if they had gone out after burning their dinner.

I live in a building that has four floors, and I don't know any of my neighbours. Even tonight, after speaking to four of them in the midst of a stressful situation, afterwards we didn't even introduce ourselves. Tragedy averted, we all turn back to our own doors, our own modern caves.

When I took my wallet and my passport, I gave a fleeting thought to my camera and my laptop, but immediately dismissed them.

A strange evening after a long day. What I have learned:

-I need to make more of an effort to greet my neighbours and learn some names, in order to establish at least a small support network in this building
-The firefighters of the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service are absolutely remarkable and deserve to be commended. I'm going to write them a thank you card.
-When it comes down to it, stuff really is just stuff. A phone to communicate with friends, ID (important in case one needs to prove one is legally allowed to be in this country), a warm coat, and good shoes. At that moment, those were my essentials.

Do you experience urban isolation in which you live squished next to thousands of people, but don't know your neighbours?
When was the last time you said thank you to someone who works in emergency services?
What are your essentials?

What a weird night. I'm going to bed. I can't wait until JP moves to Edinburgh. I need a cuddle.


Marie S said...

fires! very scary things. I am so glad you are and everyone else are ok!

ellen abbott said...

Amazing how fast you, any of us really, cut to the bone. It's a wonder. I would grab my 4 essentials...glasses, wallet, phone, keys...clothes if I was naked (a distinct possibility), any memento in reach on my way out after that.

Anonymous said...

Good story B. It's reasuring to hear how fast the brigade moved. It really is just stupid stuff.

Dale said...

Oh, glad all's well!

LDWatkins said...

Glad all turned out well! Our essentials are few. We,too, dwell in isolation. Here for about 6 years, I hardly know a neighbor. Need to work on that. Hugs, Lynda

ms toast burner said...

Sounds like an unnerving night, yep. It's seems like you've turned it into a good thing though. :-)

naldo said...

Flippin eck, that was a bit more than you need at bed time. Glad it turned out well.

I live in Embra and, sadly have to admit that many of the flats i've inhabited have been a bit like yours - i.e. it's been hard to meet the neebs. Thankfully not the case in my current gaff where we all get on like a house on fir....sorry.

Fire brigade are indeed barry. They were round here a coupla weeks ago advising on fire prevention, alarms etc. just cos they had a stall at do i attended so i asked for some advice. Service way above what i'd expected. My wife said thanks (i was out at the time).

Essentials? My wife, a coat and my mobile phone to contact one of our amazing newtwork of buddies.

fullonmommy said...

I know pretty much all of my neighours and their children and they know me. I definitely have a great community here.
I haven't thanked anyone in the emergency field lately, no.
My essentials, for me, are my children, my two girls. As long as I have them, all else can go away.

Sharon McPherson: AUTHOR / ARTIST said...

That was a bit of a scare!

It's a shame that communities in flats/tenements are like this nowadays. It appears to be the younger generation as I find 40 + neighbours introduce themselves, give Christmas cards etc. My mum says that in her day every one knew every one ... which could creat a different sort of problem. But a simple 'Hi my name is ... ' goes a long way. It's a shame.

Glad you are safe.

Marcheline said...

I've always had a disconnection from my neighbors as an adult. Growing up, we knew our neighbors and were friends with most of them. But since I've been on my own, I like my privacy and don't really want to get involved with neighbors beyond a waving as we pull in/out of the driveway. The main exception would be our tenants, a lovely couple that we hit it off with and are good friends. But that's a rare exception to the rule.

Michael said...

This is kind of like the lottery question in reverse. If I had to choose between my computer and my wallet, I would so take my computer.

I'm a small town person, so I know my neighbors well. When I was in the city, there was a feeling like you described. Polite acknowledgment, but damn I just need my space in this chaos and I don't really need to know you. I like small towns better.

Nathalie said...

My first visit on your blog, sorry for not coming over earlier. You have some pretty wonderful photos there.

Then this story.Well I live on the 4th floor and there are 2 flats per floor so that's 8 tenants in the building and I'm proud to say that I've met them all. Short (or longer) chats in the staircase (we have no elevator) but I know a little bit about them all.

Interesting also is your comment about what you took. I probably would have done the same. Stuff is just stuff.