Before I started my own company, I had been working for a small PI agency. The owner hired me, green off the street, when I responded to a newspaper ad.
The night he was killed I was trying to get a quick nap before going out on a date. But the fire alarm in the multi-unit building wasn’t going to let that happen for long. It bleated throughout the building sounding like a violated she-goat. In the hallway the white emergency strobes flashed with a techno-club veracity. Neighboring apartment units opened their hallway doors as the residents; like horizontal prairie dogs looked out to assess the threat. But no one was evacuating the building. It was too cold and dark outside with a freezing February rain. The residents were willing to take the word of my roommate and his girlfriend that there was no danger. They said they had let a piece of halibut catch fire. They apologized to everyone and assured them that the pan fire was now out. The fire department responded just the same.
At this point I gave up on my attempt to nap. The red lights of the fire trucks bounced illumination through the open windows of the living room. The smoke cleared in the unit as the temperature dropped with the rush of outside air struggling to displace the smell of fish and charcoal. Two firefighters in full firefighting gear were in the kitchenette area, at least another was checking out the rest of the building and responding back by radio. When the firemen in the apartment confirmed that the fish was no longer aflame, the alarm stopped.
My roommate and his girlfriend asked if there was going to be a charge for the fire department’s response. I was glad to hear that there would not be, as I was concerned I would have to come up with a third of any fine.
“We’d rather respond to something like this than the other call we just had.” The firefighter said. “We just came from an accident where a man was crushed. He was run over. He was in his 40s. Guess he slipped in the slush and fell in the road and was lying there. An elderly guy came along and ran him over thinking it was just debris in the road. The roads are bad tonight. No one should be out there once they’re in.”
The roads were bad. There was a weather advisory to stay home. It was the kind of bad weather where the only people that were out in it were snowplow drivers and guys with dates.
I got the call while still out that night. My roommate said he took a call that my employer had died. My employer had been the man run over – He was the man in the road that the firemen were talking about. The same firemen standing in our kitchenette had only just before been picking him out of the road.
It was one of those moments that felt like it should have more meaning than it really did. There was no dramatic arc, more of detour that ended with nothing. It was sad but there was no life lesson to be learned other than not to fall in the street. That would have bothered my employer and I think it still bothers me.