Signs of illiteracy in the strangest places

Saturday, 27 June 2009 at 7:40 pm

I had a pretty stressful experience on the week-end that kept reminded me of two important things. Here’s what happened …

It was Saturday morning. I had a very important appointment in the city. I parked the car in a multilevel basement car park and walked to the lift. On the way I passed a stairwell to street level, a quicker exit option, but noticed it was signed, “Fire escape only. Please use the lifts.” On arrival at the lifts I noticed that one was under repair and the other was signed, “We apologise for the delay. Please use stairs if you are in a hurry.” The sign was accompanied by an arrow pointing to the right.

Well, I’d walked from the left, but decided to return to the stairwell I’d passed, as its exit point was en route to my destination. That was my second mistake. My first was giving my mobile phone to my husband that morning.

Racing into the stairwell, the door closed behind me. I proceeded upwards as I was parked underground. The door on the next level was locked. Still calm, I continued my journey upwards, but found that all the doors were locked. By now, I was feeling uneasy.

Down I ran to exit at the level I’d entered, unhappy that this delay would almost certainly result in me being late for my important appointment. If you’re thinking, “She’s locked in the fire escape”, you’re correct.

My first thought, “I can’t be locked in! This is a fire escape” was quickly followed by, “Blimey, how will I get out?” I decided to run down to check all the doors. To my relief, as I was getting quite panicky by now, I found a lovely couple stranded on the lowest level. I was extremely relieved to have company.

I learned they’d called the emergency number and were waiting for a security guard. And only now that my panic had subsided, did I realise that a) I would probably miss my appointment and b) I was surrounded by urine.

So what was I reminded of? The outcomes of illiteracy are ever present. The fire escape was used by  homeless.

And the other thing? Always check that the door opens from both sides before letting it close behind you!

by Angela Ehmer

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