Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I was given 15 minutes, actually

When I first moved to Minnesota, we were involved in an apartment fire. DH and I left the apartment, came home and found the apartment on the top floor of the 3-story building on fire. We were on the bottom floor. Everyone had evacuated the building except our poor cats, who were pressed against the sliding glass door, staring out at us.

Water rushed into the apartment, flames were shooting out, and alarms were going off. The poor cats were already traumatized by moving across country (and that's a move saga I documented once -- talk about the road trip from hell). And now they're in an apartment fire.

As soon as we were sure the fire was contained, I approached the fire chief and said, "I'm going in for my cats." He was adamant -- we couldn't go in the building. I looked at him, I looked at my 3 cats, and I said, "I'm going in."

He said, "You've got 15 minutes to get anything you need then we're locking it up."

DH and I raced into the building through ankle-deep water and smoke. The only light was from flashlights we carried. Our pet carriers were luckily stored in an outside cupboard, so I grabbed those on the way in.

As we entered our apartment, a cat jumped into my arms, trembling. I stuffed Scooter into the carrier and set her on top of the kitchen counter. DH and I corraled the other two and got them stowed. The cats were insane with fear but we managed. Then we looked at each other. A lot of our things were in an outside storage garage since this was a tiny, 'temporary' apartment (hopefully for just a month or two since it was miniscule). So I grabbed pet food and bowls and stuffed them into a shoulder bag.

Then I walked around, looked at what we had, and made choices. I snatched up the Job Hunting Folder, DH grabbed the Move Bag (something I always put together whenever we moved, which was often. It had everything needed for one week of living during the chaos of moving). I grabbed the floppy disks -- yes, this was back in the day of the floppy. Then I took the basket where Bills to Be Paid sat, dumped them into the bag with the cat food, and looked around the apartment one more time.

The fireman looked in the door and said, "You're out of here." Fifteen minutes on the nose -- the cats had taken us about 1/2 of the time to corral them, but they were why I was anxious to get there in the first place, so hell, I didn't care.

The Red Cross put us up for the night at a nearby motel. The next day we found out that we had 24 hours to vacate the premises -- the mold was growing so fast it was toxic. So I had to find a new apartment in the same complex (because our storage area was at that complex and they wouldn't let us vacate the complex and just pay for storage), pack, and move, yet again -- the third time in 3 months. DH was busy with a new job and had no time to help. So in mid-July during a heat wave, I supervised 3 movers who schlepped our stuff two buildings over to a new place.

We moved 4 times in 10 months that year. And all I lost was a set of salad forks and a folder of old newspaper clippings. Not too bad. I counted up once: I've moved something like 24 times in 35 years. This is the longest I've ever lived in one place (16 years and counting) since I left my parents' home when I was 17. I am the Move Diva but that apartment fire-vacate-water soaked house tested even my endurance.

And all I lost was some salad forks ... go figure...

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