Right during the middle of the lecture day yesterday, here in Thunder Bay, the fire alarm went off. This has happened occasionally, but it's always an accidental pull, an electric short or a prank. This time there actually was a fire somewhere in the building. So the staff were diligent about getting us out. I was up on stage, up a long ramp, and I had to get out. The wing of the hotel that we were in was a long way off from the lobby, so I asked one of the staff if there was an accessible exit anywhere in the vicinity and she said, remarkably, 'yes' and directed me to where it was.
Joe and I headed off to the exit that we thought she had indicated and I saw that there was a step, a small step, but enough of a step to make it inaccessible. Just as I noted and commented on it, several of those who were attending the lecture indicated that the accessible exit was one door over. So we backed out of that exit and went over to the other. And waited.
The fire must have been far away from where we were waiting because the only smoke evident was from the smokers who all had the look of people especially graced by God as they puffed away and chatted. When it was all over, we headed back in and I went back up the ramp. I should say here that I was so pleased that they even had a stage with a ramp, it was a large audience and after becoming a wheelchair user, I seldom get to be on stage any more. I was able to see and be seen.
This blog isn't really about the fact that the stage had a ramp and the hotel had an accessible exit near the ballroom. As Joe and I say, using a quote from the movie, Made in Dagenham, 'That's as it should be, Eddie.' The fact that it often isn't doesn't make the fact that it 'is' special. Anyway what was lovely, and remarkable, and noteworthy, was though there was a real fire, and though there was a real need for us to get out of the building, not one, not two, but many people in the audience came forward to offer assistance for me to get down the ramp and out of the building.
I knew that Joe would be heading up to get me when he got through the rush going the other way, so I thanked people and assured them that I had assistance. Everyone who offered, offered genuinely, equal parts concern and respect. All listened to what I said, understood that all was taken care of. I was truly impressed by how I was treated, respected and listened to by those in my audience.
I'll remember Thunder Bay for a long time because I'll have a cue. I travel with a mug I use for lectures. I'd forgotten mine at home so I bought a new one, one I like better, here at the mall the other day. It's got a lovely design, in blue, of all the buildings that comprise a community. It's cool. So, every time I pull it out, I'll remember that I bought it in Thunder Bay. My cup at work reminds me of a Tescos in North London. It will be nice to remember, not the fire, nor the ramp, nor the hotel, but the people who knew how to ask, who knew how to listen, who knew the basics of respect. That's always a good thing to have in mind before beginning a day.
PS I know I have readers who know this blog better than I do, Have I ever written about 'That's how it should be, Eddie'? If not, I should