A number of people have noticed the title of this blog, which is of course based on signs like this one.
Signs reading “In Case of Fire, [Do Not Use Elevator], Use Stairs”are placed near the button panel for every elevator, often at a spot where someone with a wheelchair would be seeing it at eye level. I was asked this morning by one of my friends what a person in a wheelchair is supposed to do in a fire-all-over-the-place kind of situation.
Not wanting to be ill-informed, I researched it on the Internet for about 4 minutes.
- As I suspected, using an elevator in a fire is kind of like asking the fire to give you a big hug. I wouldn’t recommend this.
- What you are supposed to do- in a respecting regulations kind of way- is wait in an “area of refuge” which is supposed to be a fire-safe area of the building: these include operating rooms, areas in stairwells, and control rooms in nuclear power stations, to name a few.
- Another option, and the one I prefer, is the ask-a-strapping-young-someone-to-pick-you-up-and-get-you-the-heck-out-of-there approach. Thats the technical name for it, anyway.
- I first became acquainted with this method in high school. Our building had 4 stories, and my principal thought it was pretty bogus to leave me at the stairwell with my fingers crossed. So in each of my classes, I had a little team of people that would help get me and my chair out of the building in the event of a buncha, buncha flames wanting to engulf me.
Yes, yes, I know, you’re saying to yourself, but where does the title of your blog come from?
As many -if not all- of you know, I use a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy. Honestly, I would probably have to Wikipedia my own disability to explain it to your satisfaction. But, off the cuff, I can tell you that I have brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen to my brain, and that this could have occured at a variety of points before, after, or during the birth process.
Life with a disability is always a challenge- and always a lesson in irony, humor, patience, and civil disobedience. But that isn’t exclusive to my life or my circumstances. I know all of us face challenges, and all of us have to choose to laugh to keep from crying on a regular basis. And every single one of us, for one reason or another, has really wanted to stick it to the man.
That’s why In Case of Fire, Use Stairs seemed like the perfect title for my attempt to reach the world through chronicling my life and my perspective, because life is what it is. Sometimes you wait. Sometimes you’re trying to survive and not get burned. Sometimes you’re helping someone else take a breath. Sometimes you leap and hit all the bumps on the way down. But you have to keep going to survive- and keep a smile on your face while you do it- even if your tongue is placed firmly in cheek while you do so.
I have written almost all my life, and have always wanted to reach others through writing in a way that could inspire them and stir them, certainly- but I would be remiss if I didn’t also lace everything I created with humor. It’s dark and troubling to picture me at the stairwell, crossing my heart and waiting for fireman Joe. But it makes me smile. Because there are so many moments in my life where it feels like the walls are closing in- or burning down- around me. But I’ve always made it out. So, when things heat up for you, I encourage you to follow these three time-honored steps: Stop. Drop. And Rock n’ Roll.