Black water keeps rollin’ on past

Time for (hopefully) the last of the big 3 posts. This one is all about Halloween. The evil was definitely strong that day; danger lurking around every corner, in every hallway, and in the pipes.

So, allow me to properly set the scene, if I may. First, there’s me. I am injured, hobbling around on a pair of bad knees. I am wearing a holter monitor, since my doctor picked up an irregular beat in my physical the day before. In addition to all that, I am also fresh off a nice little vacation. That is important to mention, because while I was out of the country, absolutely no work was done. So I’m back and have been working like crazy to try to get things caught back up.

It’s roughly 10:40am, on Halloween. I am at work, sitting at my desk. The recorder portion of the holter monitor is on my desk, to the right of me, wires running from under my shirt out to the recorder. I have just completed entering a check run into the system, and am about to print out the check register. And that is when what was a more-or-less good day takes a sharp turn for the worse.

There’s a noise in the hall in front of my office. In the split second it takes for me to lift my head to see what’s happening, I’m suddenly being sprayed with foul, black water. I screamed, grabbed the monitor recorder off the desk, shove my chair back and jump up, moving away from the water. It takes a second, but it dawns on me that my office has a door! I race (as fast as I can) to the door, pulling it shut, while trying to guard the monitor with my life. As I’m shutting the door, I notice one of my coworkers standing out in the hallway, staring towards my office. I stare around at my office in total disbelief and shock. It’s then I start to realise what was happening — that black sludgy water was pouring out of the overhead sprinkler. There isn’t a sprinkler head inside my office, only directly outside the door.

All of this happened in a matter of seconds — 20-25 seconds max — but it felt like an eternity. Everything was moving in slow motion, yet flying by at the same time. At first, I was only aware of two things – I was being sprayed with water, and I was attached to a heart monitor that I’m not allowed to get wet under any circumstances. (That monitor costs $1000 to replace, and I really didn’t want to have to pay for that if it got ruined, or have to do the test all over again.) I checked the monitor and luckily it had only taken a tiny bit of spray on the carrying pouch, everything inside was safe. After that, I start looking around my office, and see that everything is covered in this nasty, inky liquid. And it wasn’t just gross to look at — it smelled bad. I realised that my iPod and cell phone were sitting in the area of my desk that had gotten sprayed, so I snatched them up, wiping them dry with the hem of my shirt.

At this point, I’m also starting to really wonder what’s going on, what happened, why the sprinklers had gone off. Time keeps ticking by, and yet all I can hear is the sound of water coming out of the sprinkler, pounding against the door and walls. I look down at the floor at the front of my office, and see that water is pouring in underneath the door. I back up, moving away from the water that’s creeping into my office, heading for my feet. At this point I’m beginning to panic and worry. It’s been a little over 5 minutes, and the water is still coming down outside. I’m still in my office, and no one has tried to contact or rescue me. I’m afraid that I’ve been forgotten in there, that no one knows I’m still trapped inside my office, unable to leave because I cannot get the holter monitor wet.

I finally decide I need to work as hard as I can to stay calm. I’m being monitored because my heart was acting weird, so I didn’t want to risk anything happening to me because I freaked out. I used my cell phone to snap a couple of pictures of the disaster area that was my desk, as well as the encroaching flood waters. (I’ll include these pics at the end of this post.) After what felt like an eternity, my boss called my cell to check on me. She let me know that they’d evacuated the entire building, and the fire department had arrived. She’d let both our building maintenance crew and the fire department know that I was trapped inside. After we hung up, I started to listen very carefully, and finally was able to hear the fire alarms going off. They were barely audible over the sound of the water forcefully pouring out of the sprinkler, beating against my door.

The flood waters were slowly coming further into my office and I found myself backed into a corner with nowhere to go. A few minutes later, my boss called me again to let me know the firemen had just shut off the water, and that the last of it should work its way out of the pipes within the next few minutes, then I’d be able to evacuate. One minute passes, then two. Minutes three and four tick by, and the sound of the gushing water hasn’t slowed at all. Seven minutes pass, and there’s no change in the volume of water at all. Deb calls me back again to check on me, and I let her know that I’m still very much trapped. She informed me that the fire men were on their way up to rescue me.

I gathered together my purse and carefully trudged my way through the sludgy waters towards the door. After a couple of minutes, I decided I was going to be brave. I made sure the monitor recorder was behind me, and that the electrodes on my chest were covered, then I cracked open the door to peak out. There were a couple of people standing at the end of my hall — one I didn’t recognize (who later turned out to be the volunteer marshal for my floor) along with the building maintenance guy. He saw me peeking out, and I waved and he smiled and waved back. Right about then, I saw a couple of firemen come up to them. I shut the door so I didn’t get any wetter, relieved that rescue was now close at hand.

A bit later, my office door opened, and a fireman came in. Another one was checking out the sprinkler head, trying to figure out why it was still going off since they’d supposedly shut off the water. He grabbed a chair out of another office, using that to stand on so he could get closer. He knocked the sprinkler head off, and was able to put his hand over the valve and temporarily stop the flow of water. As I was waiting on the firemen to correct the problem so that I could escape, I heard another set of sirens headed for our building, ambulance sirens. Once the fireman on the chair was sure that it’d stay stopped while he had the end plugged, he motioned for me to come on out of the office. I hobbled out of there as fast as I possibly could, and over towards the maintenance guy. That was when I made an interesting discovery — ONLY the sprinkler directly in front of my office was going off. None of the others on our floor had been set off.

The floor marshal made sure that I was okay, then had me follow him towards the emergency exit. He opened the door to the stairwell, and I had to shake my head no. I have a note from my doctor on file that states I’m not allowed to take the stairs during any emergency — I have to be evacuated via the freight elevators. (Those stairs would destroy my knees on a normal day. As much pain as I was in on Halloween, I wouldn’t have made it down more than 1 floor before I could no longer walk at all.) I made my way to the freight elevator, and headed on down to the first floor and outside to where everyone else was waiting. I quickly found my boss to let her know that I was okay. Apparently they’d only evacuated floors 3-5, and not only was my sprinkler the only one on my floor to go off — it was the only one in the entire building to activate. Lucky, lucky me. Deb had gotten very worried when she heard the ambulance pull up, since we hadn’t talked for a while and I still wasn’t out of the building. She’d called our emergency liaison, to find out that someone on the 6th floor had a heart attack from all the excitement. 🙁

My boss and the admin for our area got me away from the crowd, and found me somewhere to sit down and rest for a while. A bit later and they came over to let me know I could go home for the rest of the day, and Deb said she’d call me when she knew more details on what was going on, and if I was going to need to come into work the next day. It was on the drive home that it really started to hit me, and I got shaky and upset over the whole ordeal. Once I got home, I changed out of my wet clothes and curled up in bed. I desperately wanted a shower, but I couldn’t take one because of the heart monitor. (Once I got home from turning that in later in the afternoon, though, I headed straight into the shower. hah.)

I ended up being trapped in my office for almost 30 minutes that morning. I do have some info now from the fire marshal as to what they believe happened, as well as info from building maintenance as to what they think really happened. But, all that is going to have to wait for another post because A) this one is getting too long already and B) it’s time for me to get ready to head out to my cardiologist appointment. heh.

But, as promised, pictures behind the cut! Just remember these were taken on my cell phone, so they aren’t the best.

2 thoughts on “Black water keeps rollin’ on past”

  1. Aah, see, you’d led me to believe originally that the sprinkler had gone off in YOUR office. But it was just outside your office then. :-p that’s a little bit of a big difference.

  2. Did I? I didn’t think I said it was inside my office. I said I was trapped in my office, because I couldn’t get the monitor wet. So if the sprinkler was in my office…then I’d just be able to leave and be safe. :p

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