Where There’s Smoke …

448506_origToward the end of my newspaper career, more and more things happened in the newsroom that made me wonder why I stayed as long as I did.

Or even how I survived.

There was one day not too long before I decided to move on when we were all dutifully working away at our desks. Mine was located in front of the advertising director’s office.

As I sat at my desk, I smelled smoke. I scanned the office and then swiveled to look in the AD’s office, where I saw smoke coming from the ceiling tiles. She was on the phone—seemingly completely oblivious to the billows of grayness seeping in above her head.

I hollered to her and pointed. She glanced upward and said to the person on the other end of the line: “Seems there’s smoke coming from the ceiling. I’ll call you back.”

As people began evacuating, I noticed smoke flowing from the ceiling in front of the publisher’s office, on another side of the building. Someone was letting him know, so I exited and found some of my colleagues hanging out by the cars, where I joined them. Someone asked if we should call 911 and another said the publisher would call.

We waited for the few remaining people in the office to join us and for the fire department.

And waited.

And waited.

A good 30 minutes later, one person walked back into the office and returned shortly thereafter, saying everything was clear.

A few of us hesitantly went back inside, while others got in their cars and left for the day. The smell of smoke was still overwhelming, and an employee who had not evacuated was climbing down from a ladder placed near the publisher’s office.

“Looks OK to me,” he said—as a voice in my head reminded me that he worked in circulation and was not a professional.

Those of us in the newsroom, where the smoke was heaviest, decided to call it a day.

We later learned that the publisher had actually not called 911. We also learned that he told those who hadn’t made a quick escape as the smoke began infiltrating the office to stay at their desks. He apparently assured them that the circulation employee would make sure everything was OK.

I returned the next day and the building hadn’t burned to the ground. Guess the circulation guy knew what he was talking about.


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