in the six and a half years I’ve worked at the gimcrack we’ve had maybe 50 or so false fire alarms. today I was having lunch in the cafe across the road with the art therapist when we heard a fire alarm.
“that sounds like it’s coming from the gimcrack” said the AT.
“doubt it. I’ve just been reading up on ventriloquism. apparently the human ear is not very good at gauging where sound is coming from unless there are visual clues. so you just think it’s coming from the gimcrack because you expect it to be. it’s probably the backpacker hotel on the corner.”
we carry on eating and ignoring the alarm.
“would you call a conga line of patients a visual clue?” asked the AT
I glance up to see a gaggle of old ladies spilling out onto the footpath as three fire engines come hurtling down the road.
not only is it our alarm, there is an actual fire in the dementia unit and part of the building is being evacuated. Sixteen (count ‘em) fireys are on site, some carrying patients down stairs into the garden while others grapple with the blaze which started in a dryer and has engulfed the laundry on that floor.
it’s fucking mayhem and my eyes start hurting immediately, not from the smoke but from the sight of twenty or so geriatric crazies who have DRESSED THEMSELVES and are now visible in BROAD DAYLIGHT. their various ensembles included two capes, one fez, a teenage mutant ninja turtles scarf, pink fluoro socks, tartan plus fours, a mohair cardigan with 80s shoulder pads and a “Save the Whales” t-shirt.
artwork by Gilles Barbier
several are carrying things, possibly because those items were close at hand when they got swept up by a 6 foot finely sculpted muscular a firey, or possibly because they couldn’t live without 1) a plastic bag full of tomato sauce sachets, 2) a pot plant, 3) an empty urine sample container, 4) a bible, 5) a golliwog, 6) a roll of toilet paper and 7) a fish slice.
we herd them all behind a fence into a secluded leafy part of the garden and let the experts do their job. the fire is extinguished, mess mopped up, laundry under lock and key and things are looking good until the chief says “lot of smoke residue still, bad for the lungs. you may have to close that ward until tomorrow, find other beds for them tonight”
there are no other beds. nursemyra has been filling all vacancies with respite patients because hey I’m going on holidays at the end of the week….. “if we have to take them home with us, I’ll take J & S because they’re both still continent” says traineenurse.
“if we have to take them home with us…….?!?!?” nursemyra nearly swoons but the fireys are already leaving so there’s no point. instead I send all available staff on a hunt for electric fans and we open every window and door, and create a gale up there to rival Katrina. three hours later a nifty little gadget that measures air quality tells us we can pack ‘em back in.
I leave the gimcrack on time and unaccompanied by any incompetent sphincters. I do however find a fish slice in my handbag.
so how was your day?
*** apologies to Tim O’Brien