Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy First Tuesday of March

In an effort to slash operating overheads1, my office has moved from the overly large 3-unit space in a commercial building to a cozy2 apartment in a mixed-occupancy development near the railway station.

Over the weekend, a burst pipe at our block managed to put 3 of 4 lifts out of service, leaving a long queue for the lone lift up the 39-storey building. This added to the already severe problems of the building being over crowded- designed as residential units, the services are probably enough for 3 to 4 occupants per unit. But with many of these units used as offices, there was a problem of overpopulation (just like the whole of China, really).

The complex consists of a retail areas on 4 podium levels, and two separate towers of about 40 floors rising up from the podium. To circumvent the horrendous crowds at the lift lobby, we took the other tower's lift up to the 5th floor and snaked through emergency exit tunnels to appear on the roof level of the podium. Here was a roof-top garden and tennis courts for people who pay more rent, which also functions as a safe area in an emergency.

Walk along the roof-top garden to the other tower's emergency exit door, and go up to the 6th floor and tadaa!, crowd avoided.

Today, i followed the same route. Up the lift to level 5, entered the emergency exit door (which required pressing a door release button to open), travelled through a winding concrete tunnel to the other door leading outside and only to find that it was securely shut. A numeric keypad provided authorised access, and a sign said "door opens automatically in a fire". Great, looks like I'll have to use the lifts at my own building anyway.

I returned to the first door, only to find the same thing: a numeric keypad and no means to unlock it from the 'safe' side. Uh-oh. I looked at other doors and found them not to contain much promise: electrical risers and HVAC equipment rooms, probably. No good getting stuck in those. I paced back and forth along the tunnel, looking alternately at both of these very secure doors (probably rated to 1.5 hours, these doors can very well resist the spread of smoke and heat from a raging fire for at least 90 minutes).

I then found a plastic box with a hinged cover embedded into the concrete. Inside was a red phone with no number pad - if this was hard-wired to the fire department, I could stir up a mess. Hoping it was merely connected to the building control room, I picked it up and heard it ring. Fortunately, it was not the fire department.

I explained my situation, and the person said he'll send someone up to look for me. To my surprise, he didn't try to give me a talking-to for using the emergency exits (some buildings managers treat these exits as additional things they have to guard - some are even locked up at night with chains and padlocks). After several minutes (the wait was made easier playing Snake II on the phone), someone opened the door leading back to the lift lobby.

Yay I can finally go to work!

1. This, in addition to giving everyone a delightful retrenchment/paycut surprise. You know hor, my salary got reduced by 20%. [ -censored- ], good thing i don't have to worry about home loan payments and the like now.
2. Smallish

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