Well, well, well. I thought things couldn't get any more hairy than having your interviewee not show up unexpectedly, right? Yeah. The World of Radio decided to be madcap at me again.
So I got to the studio today with a 25-minute interview/conversation between me and a couple of other poets/critics/scenesters about spoken word (it was a nice chunk of audio, and the first bit of a two-parter) to play, but I was going to do a live intro and outro for it. So, I got in early to make sure I knew where the audio player on Computer One was, cued up a little Buckwheat Zydeco as an intro tune, got the headphones settled, and started making some notes and noodling around waiting for Third World Players to end so I could start my show.
Now, I was a little edgy because of the whole Gatineau climbing conflict thing. Actually, I was really pissed and reminding myself that Literary Landscapes is not the place to go ranting about the policies of the National Capital Commission. That, plus a little too much coffee over the workday and the usual jitters I get before showtime had me all sort of bouncing around. But I'd managed to calm myself down so I could remind myself that everything was going to go just fine.
Then, at about 6:27 or 6:28, I noticed a flashing, bright, strobe light in the studio. The light that usually goes off when the phone rings. But I picked up the studio phone and there was nothing. And there was a buzzer going off somewhere - not so loud that it was going to show up on air, I thought, but there was a buzzer, and the phone doesn't usually have a sound. Then I checked out the light, and noticed that it said "FIRE" around it in block letters.
Well, crap. If I wasn't at the board to intro and cue up my interview, we were going to have dead air. But there was a fire alarm. I set the Buckwheat Zydeco tune to play automatically after Third World Players spooled to a stop, and picked up my bag and headed out into the hall. I had about 6 or 7 minutes leeway before there was dead silence on the radio.
There were two young guys doing a show in the closed circuit recording studio, and they came out as I did. "What's going on?" they said, and I said, "I dunno, but I've got to be on air in like 7 minutes, I don't know if I can leave."
"Yeah, we've got someone calling in for an interview in 5," they said. "But if it's a fire, we've got to go, right?"
"Training did not cover this," I said, and they agreed that no one had ever told us what you were supposed to do if you have to evacuate the building. So we headed out down the emergency exit to see if we could find out what was going on. The stairwell smelled like pot, so we assumed that it was just someone smoking in the stairwell, but then we got outside and there were people all hanging around. I propped the emergency exit open with my bookbag and we tried to decide what to do. I knew the minutes were ticking down in there. Finally we all three decided just to go back in.
"For journalism!" I said, and they said that we could at least be each other's ears and eyes - we'd go back to our shows but if anything got weird we'd let each other know. So we ran around the back of the building and back up the five flights of stairs - past all the university centre staff waiting outside - and I went back to the On Air studio with about 30 seconds of music to spare, caught some of my breath, faded out the music, flipped on the mike, and started my intro (although my heart was still racing and I was still a little out of breath.) Then I ran the interview.
After a minute or so I went back out to the hall and some guy who was passing told me it was a "glitch" and that the fire alarms had been going off for no reason for a week. So, when the two guys from Studio B came back to the On Air studio to tell me they'd heard someone saying they had to leave I told them I'd heard it was a false alarm, and I stayed around for the end of the interview, did the outro, cued up some music, and by then the annoying buzzer had stopped sounding, and the folks from Carribbean Rhythms were there to take over for me.
Kind of funny though, that the absolute dread of dead air trumped _everything_. I was WAY more worried about a half hour of silence than I was about any purported fire.