Do you ever struggle with words you’ve known for years? Like, all of a sudden you lose your ability to spell them, or pluralize them or, sadly, even remember them at all.
Example: cease. What IS the noun form of ‘to cease’? Ceasal? Ceasure? Cessation? Isn’t cessation the nounification of secede? Can you just use plain old ‘cease’?
Example: read. Whenever I type the word read, it comes out ‘ready’. This is bad because I work for a company that produces the Easyread System. Or, the Easyready System. Kinda changes the whole game.
Example: Worst/worse. In no way am I confused about how to use which version of this particular word. And yet, when speaking, I invariably panic and blurt out the wrong one. This is usually followed by an intense feeling of inadequacy and despair, after which I recover and feign a coughing fit to retroactively disguise my blunder. It’s uncomfortable for everyone.
Anyway, my worst nightmare happened yesterday. I have an irrational fear of fire alarms going off at inopportune moments. More specifically, and I tell you this only because it is important for the story, I am afraid of being naked when fire alarms go off.
I decided to squeeze in a swim during my lunch break yesterday. I joined three old ladies, who somehow spread right across the whole pool, for twenty minutes of dodging their kickboards and buoys. After this, I dried off in the sauna, accidentally leaving my cap on the bench (I have left my bathing suit in the gym 5 times in 5 months). I walked back into the locker room with 5 minutes to change before hitting the road back to work.
And then the fire alarm went off.
I don’t want to be graphic but I hope you understand what I mean when I tell you that my irrational fear came to life. I tossed my clothes in the air for a few seconds, unsure what to do next while the alarm deafened me. Instead of sensibly finding my underwear or trousers or wool hat, I grabbed my least warming piece of clothing, my wedding rings, and headed outside in my towel. I did manage to pick up my shoes, which I think almost redeems the wedding ring decision.
The old ladies and I stood outside in the 35 degree weather with the gym managers. It was….drafty. They were barefoot (though bathing-suited, I add), and thoroughly enjoying the adventure. One of them noticed that I was wearing shoes, and took this as a sign that I must have pulled the fire alarm because I had planned ahead. “How come she has shoes, huh? Huh?!” She began to point at me and loudly declare that I must be the culprit. Everyone cackled and looked meanly at me. I stared at my reflection in a car window.
I mean, in hindsight, it’s so obvious. Of course the nearly-naked girl is the criminal. She has shoes. What brilliant forethought. How well planned the crime. How deftly executed.
A few minutes later we were allowed back in the building and I managed to make it back to work in time, which deserves some kudos after my ordeal, if you please.
But the thing is, after my worst nightmare became reality, I’m not sure of the what the takeaway lesson should be. I don’t in any way feel less afraid of it. I don’t even know how to avoid its recurrence. After all, one cannot avoid being naked after swimming, and one should think of grabbing one’s shoes in thirty degree weather. I suppose, if one sees old ladies heading one way: take the other fire exit!