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I’m the fire department’s worst nightmare. Well, maybe after arsonists. And careless smokers. And absent-minded cooks. And 600 pound guys with medical emergencies. And old ladies who think their cats can’t get down from trees by themselves. But other than that, it’s me.

I woke earlier than I wanted to this morning by the renewed howling winds and rain that are not as bad as Wednesday’s howling winds and rain but made sleeping hard anyway. And probably made life hard for BC Hydro, still trying to get some areas of the region’s power back up. And probably aren’t helping the water treatment plant situation any, either. And are tempting me to abandon my volleyball team tonight to avoid driving. [Edit: Now, an hour after posting this, the sun’s out and the wind’s calmed. Make up your mind, mother nature.]

Anyway, there I was early-ish this morning, watching Weeds on DVD (Nancy branches out into edible pot products), baking banana bread (only secret ingredient in my baked goods: chocolate chips), when the fire alarm went off. My first thought was, oh no, the banana bread’s burning. But the building fire alarm is much, much louder and more annoying than the suite smoke detector. And while I make fun of my cooking and ability to set fire to oven mitts, I can bake.

I was still in my pjs, hair wet from a recent shower, and, did I mention the howling wind and rain outside? And there’s 14 flights of stairs to get to the howling wind and rain outside. I’ve lived in enough apartments to know chances were very high it was a false alarm, so I just stayed where I was. Daring the fire department to rescue me if it was a real fire, which should make me feel guilty, except that I was vindicated in retrospect. It was a false alarm.

It’s not like I did nothing. I got ready to flee, if I had to. I got dressed. I kept an eye outside and discovered none of my neighbours were fleeing either. I watched for the fire department … who pulled up half a block away from our un-MapQuestable dead end street and leisurely walked from there. So, wait, the fire department doesn’t know how to drive up to my apartment’s front door? That’s troubling.

I put my laptop and purse and cat carrier by the door. I put on my mom’s wedding band and grandmother’s grandmother’s ring. And thought … that’s it? That’s all I’d take if all my possessions were in danger of burning up?

Even now that the horribly insistent alarm isn’t scrambling my thoughts, I think the answer is still yes. I like my stuff. I have some sentimental stuff, irreplaceable stuff. But it’s just stuff. And if I can’t save it all, there seems no way to pick one or two things I could carry. The cat’s getting skinnier in his old age but he’s big enough to be quite the dead weight. And living beings trump photo albums and nostalgic knick-knacks.

I moved a lot as a kid, and I’ve continued the trend as an adult. When I went to New Brunswick for a year, and to Mexico for two, I left most of my possessions behind and barely missed them. I know I can live without stuff. I’d rather not have it all burned up, but I’d rather not play Sophie’s Choice with it in the spur of the moment, either. It’s a little sad that the tangible evidence of what’s really important to me can be carried in two hands, but on the other hand, nice to know the tangible things aren’t the most important in my life.

In retrospect, maybe I’d have grabbed at least a change of clothes. And climbed down the 17 flights to the shelter of the car. I guess that’s a plan for next time.