Monday, July 08, 2013

Levelling Up

No Fire Here"Knowledge is power," goes the old saying. In a lot of cases I believe it. I mean, if there's a bomb on the train and I'm getting off anyway then no need to tell me because I'll file off in a timely and efficient manner but if I'm fretting about cooking these beets perfectly for when you come over to dinner and you're allergic please let me know! The problem with knowledge is that it takes time to acquire. Ask anyone who has decided to completely switch careers and they'll tell you. Sure, you'll probably make a great lawyer and that will be more fulfilling than the barista work that's wearing you down but first you have to spend three years being a great law student, you know?

I have had anxiety since I was a child. Honestly, since I was probably four or five years old. Some of my earliest memories are about managing both being anxious and being embarrassed about being so cripplingly anxious. The down side of that is that's around forty years of being scared of shit every freaking day. The up side, though, is that I do have a lot of coping skills. Practice makes perfect, don't you know? OK, I wouldn't go so far as to say perfect but I can live my life so let's call it a win. One of the most important tools is, you guessed it, knowledge. Knowing your enemy can go a long way toward keeping your pants skid-free.

On Saturday night, a bare four weeks after the bedroom fire in my neighbor's apartment, I heard sirens again. They stopped on my street again. We have scaffolding up in our courtyard now so I couldn't visually track the progress of the emergency personnel. I couldn't smell anything and I listened until they went away so I decided I was safe.

Another building resident was not so easily reassured. Now, one of the biggest hallmarks of my particular spin on anxiety is that it's contagious. I don't want to die in a plane crash not because I don't want to die (though I don't) and not because I don't want to die while flying (though again I don't) but because I'll be trapped in a small space with hundreds of other people who are terrified and I won't be able to calm myself down in the midst of all that received panic and my death will somehow feel worse. Keep that in mind when I tell you that I woke to a note on the door of my building full of capital letters and exclamation points that spelled doom from FIRE!!!!! The FIRE! had been in the electrical room! The previous FIRE! was electrical! The FIRE! was next to a gas line which would LEVEL our building. (Not could, WOULD.) We, the readers, were admonished in no uncertain terms to GET!! INVOLVED!!!

Fire BreakThe note, for me, was not so much a recipe for inspiring involvement as a prescription for complete hysteria followed by some sort of rapid, insomnia-related death. I couldn't stop thinking about and comparing scenarios where I died in the explosion or all my pets did or just the cats or any other combination of gas line malfunction-related demise you can think of. Of course, it being Sunday, there was no way to get more information about the FIRE! and how damage from it was being handled. The best I could do was send emails that no one would get until today and clutch my new household FIRE! extinguishers close to my breast. There was nothing else for it, no way to acquire my knowledge more quickly, no way to erase from my brain the parallel visions of crushing bricks and crushing guilt. It was the fire-aftermath-equivalent of law school.

By afternoon the note leaver had updated her info. It was consolidated to one page and posted to the door of the garbage room on every floor as well as the front door. A store in our building had been closed for the day due to the damage from the FIRE! and we still needed to GET! INVOLVED!!

I've done what I can. I emailed the store owner, with whom I'm friendly. I emailed yesterday and called today to speak with our new co-op manager. In our phone conversation she gave me a lot of useful information like the fact that our building has, and has always had, a valid Certificate of Occupancy so the proximity of electrical work to gas lines is up to code. Last but not least I mailed off two requests (and a check for $2, $1 per request, mail order only) to the FDNY for incident reports on both fires. They promise to process requests within 10 days. Apparently this bit is like waiting for the results of your bar exam.

I continue to feel vulnerable but I don't feel the brain scrambling anxiety I had yesterday. That's something, I guess. Maybe if I actually purchase that supplemental insurance I did all the research on....

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