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Edward, Your Breadsticks Are Done

January 21, 2014

It was hardly their fault. We didn’t have a fire alarm. And we’d never had a fire drill. And despite what they say on the Learning Channel, there are two, not three responses to danger: Fight, flight or freeze. When smoke started pouring out of our break room, my team opted for the third option. . .all of them.

I was president of RESMARK. My title was president, but really, I was chief grownup. All of our developers except one were right out of school. They were bright and Dave ( was a good example for them. Our office was on the second floor of a small building in North Orem, Ut.

Our offices were on the second floor.

As president, I had an office to myself. This was not a point of prestige, it was an insistence from Dave that I stop bugging the programmers. We also had a small “walk through” room that doubled as our server room. The 8 developers all had desks and chairs, (Let Them Pick Their Own Chairs) in the “bull pen.” The other room was a break room. We stocked it with free drinks, a can crushing machine that was completely impractical and very cool looking, a refrigerator and a microwave.

The day of the fire started out like any other day. Around lunch time people started getting their sack lunches out of the fridge. We didn’t have many people who went out to eat. Edward had been to Olive Garden the day before and had some breadsticks wrapped in paper towels. (This was an important circumstance.) He threw them into the microwave on a paper plate and rather than pick a specific time, he pushed the “reheat” button. He then went back to his desk to work while waiting and closed the door to the breakroom.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t put metal into a microwave. It causes fires. Some people know you can put a CD into the microwave and create a pretty lightshow. But, no one in our office knew not to put butter soaked bread wrapped in a napkin on a paper plate in the microwave.

Our first indication that something was wrong was the thick grey smoke that started pushing out from under the breakroom door. Oh, and the smell. That was pretty strong too.

It was at this point that people got very loud and I realized that my team, while fantastic developers, were not the “act well in a crisis” types. They all froze and stared at the smoke.

As I came out of my office, it was clear that something was very wrong in the breakroom. However, we didn’t know exactly what it was. If the place was going to burn down, I was at least going to know where the fire started. I opened the heavy door to the breakroom. This let out a LOT of smoke, but also cleared the air a bit. There were no flames in the room. However, the paper plate in the microwave was starting to burn.

I quickly opened the microwave (more smoke) grabbed the unburned portion of the plate which still contained the smoldering napkin wrapped, butter soaked, breadsticks and rushed it out the back door, dumping it into the parking lot for later clean up. I then grabbed a box fan (poor air conditioning in that building) and stuck it in the open backdoor. I then opened the front door to create a cross-breeze and start clearing out the smoke.

Total time from my office to having both doors open and the burning bread out? Less than a minute. And all the while my team sat there in a daze. Maybe it’s the fact that with 13 kids, you are trained to react quickly to potentially life threatening situations. Maybe it was all that Boy Scout training. Maybe I really, really wanted to avoid losing a development day to a fire.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, and no damage was done, except that the inside of that microwave was a sick color of yellow from then on. I learned that there are times that you don’t consciously think through a scenario. You simply react. I also learned that I’m probably a “fight” guy. We all learned that bread will burn in a microwave.

After all the excitement was over and the smoke was clearing, I turned to the junior member of our team, “Edward, your breadsticks are done.”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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