Front office staff had barged into my room saying my students had cancelled. I wondered why, given the fact that they were just a few floors below me.
“Fai mai,” she said with a straight face.”
“What is fai mai?” I replied anxiously.
Of course she didn’t understand much English, but then I quickly realized that she was saying “fire.” She told me, “get your stuff and go.”
You don’t have to tell me twice! When black people hear danger, we’re out in the matter of seconds. I tried saying goodbye to them but they weren’t responsive because they were trying to close shop.
I quickly ran to the elevator (not sure why the elevator instead of the fire escape) and waited. The monitors were indicating that some elevators were full and I was growing more anxious because of the past — September 11th — and of course, being in a country that has one of the worst safety records in all of humanity.
I got on the elevator with 8 others and being on an elevator with women on their phones, chatting, made it far worse.
It wasn’t that they were frantic, it was the fact that they were speaking loudly and not giving a damn about the situation. Almost as if they thought nothing was happening. Another woman, who was pregnant, got on and casually got on the phone, and off the elevator at the 3rd floor. She didn’t even pay attention and walked out, slowly, and I damn near slammed the doors on her. I then said “idiot.”
I finally got to the first floor and knew exactly where I was, how many steps I needed to take to get to the front entrance, and how many seconds.
Luckily, I got out and realized the fire wasn’t in my tower, nor in the area where I got out.
But the point I’m trying to make here is, when reality hits, especially emergency situations, why is it that some people have zero awareness or sense of urgency? This is why people end up dead. This happens of course in developing countries, but it happens in the western world, too.
You know your girlfriend has become distant. She stops calling as often. She keeps saying, “everything is ok,” and you continue to probe. She doesn’t answer calls as often and seems disinterested in everything.
Confront the reality. I’m very straightforward in these situations. In fact, I had someone confront reality with me, two times, leading me on at the beginning of this year. It was quite funny actually because I knew I would never live in Vietnam, but I was prolonging the inevitable. She gave up not only once, but twice. I shrugged my shoulders because I had already gotten the closure needed when the second try was in full effect. Nonetheless, she kinda confronted reality for the both of us, but this was scary because when a little distance comes, she falls apart. Be very aware of these people because you don’t even want to get emotionally involved with people like this from the beginning.
Your workload has decreased. Red flags are very apparent. Workmates become distance. You know there isn’t a future, but complacency has sat in. Your body owns you and tells you “but you’ll never get a new job! Just stay here until doomsday!”
A lot of you, including myself, have gone through this before. When you sense something, trust your instinct. It doesn’t make sense to continue working at a place where you’ve invested so much energy and haven’t gotten the recognition.