It was a beautiful sunny day when I walked into work, but by noon I was drenched to the skin. Which was bad enough, but my desk drawer was a doll swimming pool and as for the computer, I was sure it was ruined. The entire office staff ended up outside in the sun wringing water out of our hair and suits. You’d think such a thing could only happen if a tornado came through, taking the roof off the building or shattering all the windows. Certainly none of us could have predicted such a heavy downpour on a day without so much as a wisp of cloud. It happened, though.
Take a Step Back
I should start at the beginning, I suppose. It wasn’t really an ordinary day anyway. It was bring your child to work day, intended to interest kids in what their parents do for a living and give them career ideas. The noise level was much higher than usual when I came in, all the kids were chattering and being shown around the office. I went straight to my desk, not having a child of my own to bring in yet. Things settled down slowly as parents took their offspring back to desks and started explaining what they actually did all day. There were scattered complaints of boredom. The questions of how grown ups could stand to do this every day that triggered stifled snickers from the nonparents in the office. Looking back we should have been paying more attention to the bored kids.
How Does That Work?
Actually it was only one bored kid that caused the trouble. Eleven-year-old Tom, who was with his dad in the cubicle next to mine, was to the point of kicking his feet on the cubicle wall and asking about the fire extinguishers and the sprinklers in the ceiling. I took advantage of his trip to the bathroom to make a call without the background complaints. My phone call was interrupted by the shriek of the fire alarm. Startled I looked up to see Tom balancing carefully on the corner of an empty cubicle by the door. He was holding a wad of flaming toilet paper and towels from the bathroom right underneath an emergency sprinkler. I wasn’t the only one to notice him right about then. I heard Tom’s dad shout his name with all the force an angry parent can summon. Tom dropped the still flaming blob of burning tissue and lost his balance.
Not Part of Manufacturer Specifications
In his panic Tom grabbed for the nearest thing available to try and keep his balance. Unfortunately that happened to be the sprinkler hanging from the ceiling. Tom’ s feet slid off the cubicle walls and he dangled for a few seconds before he came down. The sprinkler was still clutched in his hands. Water gushed from where the sprinkler had been. Apparently the system took that to mean that there was a true emergency and all the sprinklers in the building came on. Everyone grabbed for jackets or files to as a shield against the deluge, hitting the off switch on anything electrical before dashing for the exits. I helped Tom’s dad carry him outside with the rest of the evacuation. His fall had snapped his ankle.
I don’t know how the local news station heard about it but there was a shot that night of everyone out on the lawn looking like drowned kittens. The headline was Water Damage, Cincinnati Office Eye of the Storm. Both the company president and Tom’s father refused interviews. It took several weeks to get the office dried out and back to normal. The next year the boss neglected to announce bring your child to work day. He banned Tom from the building for life, though. By Heidi Grover
Heidi Grover often writes about mishaps at work. She always gets nervous on bring your child to work day. She has sent recommendations to engineers about designing emergency sprinklers that will hold a person’s weight. She also writes on behalf of clients like Water Damage, Cincinnati.