Fired Twice Today!

Twice today, live fire with bright yellow licking flames surprised me at work. At both of my ‘jobs’, the scary truth is that either one could have burned down down down. Twice today, when this hardly ever, never even comes close to happening, real danger showed up, and reared it’s fiery head. Twice luckily, the danger was averted.

The screen print shop is usually a relatively safe and harmless environment. Sure the ink from the bucket seems to jump out and stain itself on you, as you walk around or even look in it’s general direction. Normally it is an orderly and even quiet place of production. The action of the soft shirts and the squeegees dragging across the silken screens, isn’t very dramatic. Normally, everything goes like clockwork, albeit an overloaded and quickly running clock these days. We have been uber-busy for over two months solid now, at the t-shirt shop that I create artwork for.

No, most days aren’t like today. Usually, the faint smell of something smoky is no big deal. Sometimes the shirts in the dryer give off a grey puff of steamy vapor as they travel along the belt, while the fresh ink cures. Today’s smoke smell didn’t dissipate quickly though. Today that smoke meant fire. A single tee got caught and jammed up as it entered the machine it is supposed to moved quickly through. Going unnoticed for just long enough to get real real hot, it burst into flame, just as our Jaime, our screenprinter dislodged it by hand!

Whoosh! He came flying out of the back room, past my desk and headed out the back door. Caught in surprise, I jumped up and just ran behind him, not really knowing how to help. The tee started to fall apart right in the rear entrance. We kicked those flames out into the concreted breezeway. Back inside, there was more action. Roger had a baby floor fire to deal with and ordered me to grab the extinguisher. I pulled the pin and shot a couple little droops of puff powder down. It was only a couple small spots, that were lit. He almost had it beat with a water bottle already. Either way, we didn’t take any chances, we used the big guns.

Ha! How quickly our world can go from zero to one hundred miles per hour. I was just sitting at my computer, deciding on a font, or something, then all of a sudden it was go time. Emergency mode. Think quick, act quick! The flaming tee really didn’t cause any harm overall. In a short time period, there was no trace left of the danger, that almost was…

Only a few hours had passed when tonight at the restaurant, we had a real big crowd. Lots of people came out to eat with us, and we were in the thick of the weeds. I had been out front, trying to help people get seated. I brought menus, silverware, asked about drinks and apps. Also I wanted to tell everyone about our Customer Appreciation Week Specials. The doors kept swinging open with more and more people pilling in. Eventually the kitchen rail was racked with tickets. They hung side by side, jammed close and overflowed onto the heavy metal hood, stuck in stacks with thick round magnets. We were just slammed.

I was helping out in the kitchen by finishing off some of the plates. I grabbed little extras that people had ordered. I really just tried to do anything that may help our crew. I was cooking batches of steamed vegetables, and I had a cluster of a mess. My flash frozen asparagus and broccoli went into the pot, and came out quick, over and over. I thought I was doing a decent job. The lid was scalding temp, and so I had hot pads nearby.

As I was plating some sides facing the opposite wall, our waitress Hayley yelled, ‘Fire’!! One of the oven mitts had found the gas flame on the range. Again! Something caught fire and I was right there. This time it was my fault and I needed to handle it. I grabbed the thing, ordered our dishwasher Becky to step aside and dunked it deep into the big sink of water. Whew! Another close call, danger, real danger, averted. We were back to normal in no time and kept on rocking through the meals until we fed everyone in the place.

Now, as I look back on the day, it seemed overall like a normal day. Yes, I was plenty busy at both jobs. Lots to do, and lots to accomplish. These two scares, were so short and quickly snuffed out, that it didn’t really move the needle too much. I am not still shaking in response or worried right now at all.

I’ve heard it said that ‘Any idoit can face a crisis.’ And today (as an idiot), I did. I jumped to attention. Did something that needed to be done. Went toward the flames, not away from them. And all this was instinct and all of it overdramatized here for effect. Neither of these events were epic flaming battles, but they could have been, if left to develop on their own. Neither one caused any damage, but they could have destroyed everything.

What could I recognize for my life in general that these lessons can teach me? What else could I jump to solve and not quit until an answer seems clear? Why can I seem to know an emergency priority so clearly, and yet in the normal, non-on-fire moments of life, let my mind and imagination and action and potential do a whole lot of nothing?? The rest of that quote I started earlier, talks about ‘day to day living’ and how it wears you out. I don’t know about wearing out, but I can certainly see how the day to day doesn’t get the same attention or purposeful action as a crisis, an emergency.

I don’t take the time to connect with people, when there isn’t an emergency. I don’t jump to assist, when nothing is about to burn down. I don’t even usually move a muscle to help myself progress along my own path, until I have procrastinated my way up against a brick wall.

Are we just built and designed to handle problems, and when one doesn’t seem to show itself we go on autopilot? Or maybe it’s just me, and not you? Maybe you manufacture deadlines and track your projects daily, feeling an internally created heat blazing down on you to make something special happen?

I know that I do go on autopilot and just ‘get through’ most of my days. It’s a worm’s life, as Steve Chandler would say. Inching along, doing my minimum daily duties, never looking up and beyond the few feet in front of me. I have wings, I could fly any direction I want. I saw myself spring to action today.

Maybe I can visualize those jumping flickering and dangerous flames more often. Maybe I can superimpose that dangerous combustion onto more mundane moments in my world, and trigger the hero moments on my own terms…

Big ‘Maybes’… Or only they are big when I overdramatize them in my mind. Just like these two little fires today, they weren’t really a big deal. In the days to come, they will be all but forgotten. Let’s hope we don’t forget that everything can change in an instant, and we can be our best at any given time, just by deciding to be…


Aaron Nichols

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.”

Anton Chekhov

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