Two weeks ago, my husband, Tom, and I were lunching at a tiki bar with friends in South Florida when my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer it. But I’m thankful I did. It was our security monitoring service.
I moved away from the drone of boats passing by on the Intercoastal Waterway and the chatter of other diners to a quieter location. Jack, the guy from the security company, said smoke alarms had alerted on the first and second floors of our Michigan home. He wanted to know if he should call the fire department. Of course I said yes. He said he’d call back when he had a status from the fire fighters.
Like a zombie, I returned to our table and told Tom and our friends the horrifying news. Since the upstairs alarm was located almost directly above the one on the first floor, I pictured a column of flames starting in the basement and tunneling through the roof. While Tom and our friends discussed our next move (Jump on the next flight home? Call someone–but who living near us might be home right now?), all I could think about was how grateful I was I’d brought my laptop on vacation with me. It contains all the novels I’ve written over the years.
As it turned out, there was no fire. My wonderful neighbor, who was thankfully nearby, had access to our house and was able to let the fire department inside (so no damage to the doors). Apparently, our fire alarms concurrently decided to let us know they needed to be replaced.
Later, thinking back on my reaction, I thought it interesting I hadn’t worried about any objects in the house. Everything home-wise I truly needed was with me—Tom, and my laptop. All else was replaceable.
Non-writers may not understand the laptop part, but the files on it represent years of my brain’s outpourings. And even though I have an offsite computer backup service, I wouldn’t have felt the same measure of relief if my laptop had melted away on the desk in my writing room.
I learned a valuable lesson about myself that day–that in a moment of crisis, most material things are not important to me. If I was at home, my house was on fire, and Tom was safe, I’d only grab my laptop before rushing out the door. What about you? If your house was on fire, and your family and pets safe, what would you rescue first?