Saturday, February 4, 2012

Survival of the Baggott-ist? Nope. Not at all.

So, I learn a cold hard truth in NYC this past week. As a post-apocalyptic novelist (and I'm now trying to embrace this new identity), it's hit me that I've been walking around thinking I'd survive the apocalypse. I mean, deep down, I think I've got some grit and a strong will to live. I'm not good at basketball really, but play some tenacious D, if you get me. And if my kids were at risk, I have often imagined I'd be one of those mothers who could lift a car suddenly, if need be.

But in NYC, this happened.

7:35 am. Alarm goes off in my hotel. Fire alarm. I'm bolt upright. I scurry around. I think, Take the pocketbook. No, leave it. Put on your shoes. No time. What if there's broken glass? Shoes yes. Go go go.

And I'm out in the hall and there's another woman with me. That's it. Just us -- though I've shared a lot of elevators with fellow 19th floorers. Look, in another city with a different history, I might not have booked to the stairwell quite so fast, but I booked it.

And this other woman is young. She's got me by a solid 15 years. And she's strong. She could have played volleyball -- not college, but first string varsity high school. We mutter to each other. Things like: Where is everybody? And we head down.

Now, I'm shot-through with adrenaline and woken from a dead sleep. My legs are shaky. So, okay, maybe I haven't kept up with the P90X. Is that a reason for me to die? That seems like a pretty harsh punishment, doesn't it? I'm thinking of how, in the video, that one guy does the WHOLE THING on a prosthetic leg. What was my excuse? So, these thoughts. Yes.

And then the volleyball player -- who is two flights ahead of me -- calls up, "The alarm isn't sounding on the other floors!" And I think, What? I have weak thighs AND I'm lacking observation skills? I'm a goner.

We both persist, though, the alarm a dull blast overhead. Did I mention she's completely sprinted ahead of me? She's not like, "Hey, older lady, let me help you." No, no. SHE is going to survive. It strikes me now that her volleyball team may have even made it to the state finals.
So she gets to the bottom and can't find the final exit. I see a sign that says, "TO OBBY," which, hey, I've never won a round of WHEEL OF FORTUNE but I put it together. And we push through the door and there's the lobby...

A swirl of bustle and morning cheer. And I feel like Francis Weed in the beginning of THE COUNTRY HUSBAND who was almost in a weather related plane crash but no one cares because it's not raining at their current location.

The volleyball player gets a question out to the concierge and I hear him say, "Oh, yeah. That was a mistake. They're going to make an announcement soon. It's all good."

I say, "Are you kidding me? They can make announcements and they didn't immediately make one after flipping the wrong switch?"

Did I mention that I did manage to grab my coat and it's heavy and hot and full length, like one of those NARNIA kids and I'm in a full sweat and still shaky.

BUT ... this is where I think my experience in the world comes in handy.

The volleyball player, upon hearing the news, shrugs and walks off to the elevators to go back to bed.

Me? No, no. I wasn't raised by my older sister Kate Baggott (The Reigning Queen of All Things FREE) for nothing. I will get something for free or I will never, ever be able to tell this story to anyone in my family without bringing dishonor upon us.

I go to the front desk -- I am NOT a swirl full of bustle and morning cheer -- and say, "I'm from the 19th floor."


"There's a fire alarm on the 19th floor and I just walked down 19 flights of stairs."

"Oh! I'm so sorry!"

And I'm taken to someone else who is perhaps trained to deal with people like me -- maybe there's a training video, starring someone with smeary make-up.

Now they can't comp the entire night -- because of the third-party way I made the reservation -- but there will be a full hot breakfast etc ... And this isn't really good enough to make my family proud, but it will do. I can save face.

And what is really good is that I'm not dead.