Arthur Brown has nothing on me.
Back in the Bad Old Days, fire was a common concern. Halon hadn't been invented yet, and fire extinguishers usually consisted of a gigantic copper urn with some baking soda mixed in. And naturally flame-retardant house-wraps and building materials that resisted fire were pretty much non-existent, or were asbestos. In short, shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre was a hanging offense, just shy in terms of unlawfullness as raping a nun during lunch hour while jaywalking.
This weekend, we were lucky enough to see "The Chronicles Of Narnia" at The Grand. Lovely movie, and just what I expected to see out of a classic book-to-movie translation. We had just sat through three hours of English children fighting the forces of Evil and were right at the resolution of the entire shindig when the fire alarms began blinking their thousand-watt strobes.
The reaction was priceless--nobody budged. Not a single person stirred. Oh, lots of faces turned from the magic of the giant silver screen to stare uncomprehending at the pair of strobing magnesium lights, but not a single bum left a seat. A minute or so passed, and a few children, remembering their school fire drills decided to goad their parents into leaving. And in true herd-fashion, once one or two heads popped up the rest begain to follow, certain that THEY would not be laughed at since they didn't start the exodus. About half the theater had gotten out of their seats when the strobes went dark again, and I started snickering quietly.
You see, I'm an arse. I had noticed the theater manager or one of his flukies doing a fire door check about thirty seconds before the lights went off. I well remember the monthly checks at OD, and knew exactly what he was doing when he pulled papers from each exit door down at the corners of the theater and carefully noted on them that he did, in fact, have fire escapes, so it was no surprise when the mook set the alarm off.
A tiny, evil part of me wanted so badly to leap up and start screaming "FIRE!" at the top of my lungs, and I would have killed a minotaur to have had a cigarette in my hand to make smoke with.
Fire Part Two:
What is it about fire that draws us like moths to a candle flame?
Having spent a lovely evening at a friend's Xmas party enjoying good food, good companionship, and a Food-Grade Wood bonfire, I could not help but notice that almost everyone came out to the bonfire at one point or the other, and after making a few jokes or greetings ended up staring at the bed of coals and the flickering flames. What primal draw made these people, literally from every walk of life, stop and stare at the flames? Even in a group as raccuous as ours, the ten or so of us kept experiencing long dramatic pauses in the jokes while one after another we ended up drawn to the barely visible translucent flickerings that lay deep in the bed of coals. The silence would settle like a blanket, and we'd all simply sit there and think our own thoughts, drunk or not, while the fire kept the 35 degree temperatures at bay.
Were it not for our machine-made clothing and bottled wines and liqours we easily could have been a pack of settlers making our way across the wild west, or primative peoples sitting around a camp on the Veldt of ten thousand years ago. So basic was our attraction that it occured not once or twice but many times during the evening, enough that we were driven to laugh at our primitive behaviour several times during the night, to excuse the common compulsion.
Enough deep thoughts for the morning, it's time for oatmeal.