There are few things more unnerving than having someone run in and yell at you while you’re taking a shower. It’s even worse if you can’t see them or hear what they’re saying. And so, when it happened I was dumbstruck; just stood there, water pouring over me, soap in mid-air. He left as quickly as he came, and all I think was: “Did he say fire?”
I ran out hurriedly, trailing water like a truck would exhaust. The change room was packed – guys were everywhere, shoveling their stuff into gym bags. “What’s up?” I asked. “There’s smoke all over – we gotta leave.”
I have to leave. I’m wearing a towel. Do I want to stand outside in a towel? It was a split-second decision. I bolted to my locker and started pulling things out. Boxers, boxers, where are my boxers . . . Aha! I grabbed them, put them on – and then the lights went out. Curses surrounded me (I added my own). I was now worse off – boxered, yes, but blind. I felt around, found my pants; was putting them on when a fireman walked in.
His radio crackled.
He spoke into it: “No visible flames, no visible flames.” Waved the flashlight around, its beam sparking along metal locker corners. “Let’s go people, let’s go!”
I ‘escaped’, with my life – and my pants.
From an AP wire titled “At least 22 dead, 132 hurt in soccer stampede”:
A reporter for Super Sport, a daily newspaper focusing on sports, said that a wall collapsed under the weight of the fans as they pushed toward the field. “We saw people falling. … Then there was panic and a stampede,” he said. Ivory Coast won the match 5-0.
There are non sequiturs, and then there’s this. I wonder what was going through the writer’s head.
S@SDM: “Mr. George?”
Me: “Yes . . .”
S@SDM: “This is Shoppers Drug Mart calling. The Photo Lab. Umm . . . I’m sorry to say that the rolls of film you left for processing, that three of those rolls were destroyed. A customer came in, and . . . well, he reuses his canisters, and I thought at first that the roll he gave was a little funky, but it looked like it was coming out OK, so I put it in. But when I came back from my break the machine was shaking, and . . . Unfortunately three of your rolls were in the machine too, and we couldn’t save those rolls.”
Me: . . .
I was stunned. I have precious little time to photograph, and to be told, to be told that 120 pictures of mine are just gone . . . And because of what? Because some guy was too cheap to buy new rolls, was too lazy to carefully refill a canister? Because the operator ignored a “funky” roll? I remember seeing kids playing in the street, their bikes tracing crazy figure-of-eights in the road outside my window. Thinking that there’s nothing that I can do; that I can’t vent my frustration at anyone – not the operator nor the incompetent film roller. That I have a 120 fewer pictures, that there’s nothing I can do.