Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 25 February 2013

An explosion ..

I still owe you an explanation about last Wednesday’s ‘forced’ day off from work. But first of all I would like to thank you all for posting such ‘inventive’ comments. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them. Reading them I was reminded why I like blogging so much. The virtual exchanges with kindred minds are so enjoyable and satisfying.

Here’s what happened. At about 5.45 a.m. an hour before I arrived at work, a transformer in the main electrical utility cabin exploded, causing a small fire and a general power cut in the main building. This building is 10 stories high; midgets compared to the skyscrapers that are typical for many a skyline all over the world. However, the building into which my department moved in the beginning of November 2012 after being located for over 4 years in an annex, which only has three stories and wasn’t touched by the power cut. The fire was very quickly under control, thanks to the fast intervention of the night intervention team and the skilful help of the local fire brigade. However, the power was cut off and the badge controlled barriers keeping unauthorized people out, were out of order, and so were the main gates into the three underground parking garages. Moreover, the whole building was one black ‘hulk’ looming over the pond and surrounding grounds.

Finally, by 7.45 a.m. our diligent technical team managed to open one of the garages and we were let in. By then there was an enormous line of cars causing a traffic jam on the nearby boulevard. We parked our cars and ventured into the semi-obscure main entrance hall. There we were stopped by security. I ran into a former colleague and patiently waited for what was to come next.

As time moved on, more and more people came pouring into the hall. Some, who had found a place to sit down in the comfortable chairs that are usually reserved for visitors, had already pulled out their laptops and were working – on battery power – with their laptop dangerously balancing on their knees.

I had my laptop with me too, but I knew that the battery was flat. So I waited, chatting … At 8 a.m. a man showed up, requesting for silence. He explained what had happened, insisted that there was no danger, but that we had wait in the hallway until the technical team had fully assessed the situation. There was some commotion because he failed to repeat the announcement in French … a very delicate and tricky situation in a small country where some people – who are not bilingual – tend to get frustrated when they ‘feel’ they are being ignored. (Stop, no politics here!!).

Fifteen minutes later we were allowed to go to our offices with the request ‘to keep ourselves occupied’ … very difficult when you have no computer, no heating and no light. I feel sorry for the poor souls who had to walk up 10 flights of stairs (I work on the first floor), because only 2 out of the 8 lifts were operational. And, sheer catastrophe, the coffee, soft drinks and snack machines were also out of order. To my surprise the toilettes were brightly lit. No power cut there!

At 9 a.m. a new announcement came over the intercom system – which was working perfectly! The technicians were still assessing the situation and bottled water would be distributed at the coffee corners. By then, everybody was beginning to get restless. And somehow – don’t ask we why – there wasn’t a manager in sight! At 10 a.m. the long awaited message came! We were allowed to go home.

The exodus was well organized, with dedicated staff making sure that everybody could leave the grounds without causing another traffic jam. By 11 a.m. I was home and ready to enjoy an unexpected day off. I did switch on my laptop though and received some emails from colleagues located in the annex building. Later I learnt that they had received a free sandwich lunch and a bottle of mineral … A nice gesture, right!? I must admit that my employer handled this crisis beautifully and in a very correct and human way. Thanks boss!

P.S. Still no photos, but I have some very appetizing ones for you presently ... You'll see!


Carolyn said...

You had me wondering for the past few days what had caused the problem. Now if only the call had come to you while you were still at home telling you not to come in, it would have been a perfect day.

Vicky Spacey said...

What a cliff hanger!!!! It's always nice to get an unexpected day off, I hope you spoiled yourself and relaxed.

VirginiaC said...

Glad that it wasn't more serious, and that everyone was safe and sound.
Wonder where all the managers disappeared to that morning? If I didn't know any better, I'd think they planned it all so they could go play
Hope you made the most of your unexpected day off.

Craig said...

How strange that the toilets weren't affected Martine! I suppose that they must have their own power source or a separate generator... just as well really!

The Broad said...

Isn't it funny what works and doesn't work in these situations? And isn't it a sure thing that it will happen when your battery needs juice?

ladybird said...

Carolyn, As far as I know, they don't have a special procedure to tell people not to come in.

Vicky, Yes I did! It was fun ...

Virginia, Next time I'll check the golf courses in the neighbourhood :)

Craig, Wouldn't it have been better if it had been the lifts working. Especially for the poor souls who work on the tenth floor?

Kathie, You are so right. If the battery of my laptop had been full, I could at least had read my emails and ... my favourite blogs :^)