Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Burn Rome, Burn!

Quo Vadis PosterBoth the title and the picture may be a bit over dramatic - who me!!!! - but when I got home Saturday I was reminded of Peter Ustinov strumming a lyre and chortling as Rome flamed behind him. I somehow had a picture of Laurent on our balcony doing much the same thing last Wednesday night.

Apparently the elderly gentleman across the hall left a space heater on beside his bed while he was out. The bedding smoldered and when he came home around 11 pm the draft when he opened the front door really got things going. Laurent smelled and saw smoke in our front entry hall and opened the door to find a hall filled with smoke and our Portere (Building Super) stepping out of the elevator (DUH! rule #1 - In case of fire do not - repeat - do not use the elevator) carrying a small and totally inadequate fire extinguisher. Fortunately he had called the Fire Department.

Then the real fun began - can you say farce?

  • The fire trucks went roaring by the complex, missing the entrance and the Super's son had to go chasing after them.
  • Someone forgot to open the front gate to let the trucks in and it wasn't responding to the remote.
  • Once they got the gate open they had trouble maneuvering the trucks in because of the number of cars parked in the fire lane.
  • They didn't bother evacuating the building or doing a head count and the old fart on the first floor who has given us so much grief refused to leave his apartment. Instead he and his wife hung out the windows watching everything.
  • The firemen, policemen and ambulance drivers all arrived, exchanged warm greetings - much kissing of cheeks and old acquaintances renewed - niceties first, fire second.
  • Ironically the gentleman operating the cherry picker sat at the controls- much shouting, tooing, frowing and lurching to the delight of the crowd and the discomfort of the gentleman in the cherry picker - sat puffing a cigarette as smoke poured out of the apartment windows.
  • Two of the firefighters came out of the building oxygen tanks in one hand, burning cigarettes in the other. My buddy Stephen said the interplay as they attempted to smoke and turn off the tank controls was worthy of a Three Stooges movie.
  • The gentleman from across the hall was in a heated (sorry) discussion with his son and the police, denying that it was his fault.

Having said all this, the fire was contained to one apartment (it was gutted), no one was hurt and we have sustained moderate smoke damage. Is it possible that Beppe Severgnini is right when he says that in an Italian crisis all looks chaos but out of that chaos comes order???? As my friends are fond of saying: Relax. It's Rome

22 genaio - San Vincenzo Martiri


evilganome said...

I would think you are exaggerating if it weren't for the fact that I have had friends who've lived in Italy telling me similar stories.

I'm sure it wasn't amusing while it was happening, but you have to admit, it's a funny story.

AMOROMA said...

What were the outfits of the firefighters like? Did they look like the firefighters at the opera?

Willym said...

EG: You'll notice it took a few days to see the humour but....

Larry: I was in London when this all happened so I'm reporting everything second hand. I will assume i Guardi had on those attractive green pants and jackets with the yellow strip and the purple polo shirts. I understand the hunk quotient was of a moderately high level.

Doralong said...

Well thank goodness it was contained and no one was injured, smoke damage is a pain to deal with, but easier than losing everything! Proper sympathetic things said... that was so, so funny!!! I have this vision of Laurent, hands on hips, surveying this scene and just shaking his head making the "you people are idiots" noise..

sageweb said...

Good to hear every one is okay. Minor smoke damage is a bummer but having a gutted apt. is worse. Luckily the three stooges were able to contain it......Haven't the firemen there seen the safety video where cigs, and oxygen tanks don't do well together?

Anonymous said...

In answer to Doralong, No I was not thinking period, I could not even find my glasses which were around my neck.
I wanted to call someone but I don't know who. I thought if Will would be here he would be upset.

Willym said...

DL: You'll notice his deflection as to how I would have reacted"

Sageweb: They saw it they just didn't think it was all that interesting or applied to them!

lnb1956: Excuse me but I had and gave fire training courses. I would have known what to do.... panic!!!!!!!

Elizabeth said...

1. I'm so glad you're all alright. An apartment building just down the street burned to the ground recently and the fire was started by one cigarette. Glad luck and the stooges were on your side.

2. "I understand the hunk quotient was of a moderately high level." Ha!!! That, and your description of their probable outfits, the cheek kissing, the lurching cherry picker and the gawking crowd below, makes me imagine it as a Three Stooges movie directed by Fellini. Well, the definition of comedy is Tragedy with a happy ending. So happy this had one!

more cowbell said...

I'm so relieved you & Laurent are OK -- enough for your humor to still come through. Your story reminded me of a similar situation involving paramedics in Hungary - one of hte (drunk) Americans had actually fallen over a railing and landed on concrete stairs. The ensuing chaos was escalated, rather than contained, by the paramedics' arrival and Stooge-like antics. (Hello, you don't make an unconscious man with a bleeding head and his neck in a weird position SIT UP. Ack!) Anyway, once it wsa ascertained that you guys were OK, you tell a great tale, I love your pictures in words of Rome.