Sorry, I’m gonna have to get back to you. I’m just putting out some fires.
Am I a firefighter? Why no. But I am the Special Vice Assistant Principal of Yellow Number Two Pencil Sharpening in this office, and let me tell you: the whole damn place is on fire. And by “on fire,” I mean I have three emails and two voice mails to return from twelve hours ago, and the whole world may very well resemble Rome in the time of Nero if I do not douse the flames immediately by promptly addressing the monumentally important content of these communications.
Indeed, these fires are likely to engulf not just my desk, but the entire office building in which I work. And from there, the city and state in which I live. And from there, the country. And from there, the entire North American continent. And from there I can all but guarantee the fires will spread to a large oil tanker, which will carry the flames across many oceans. And before you know it, planet earth will be a charred hellscape that looks like a cross between Death Valley and Satan’s own wood-fired pizza oven.
There will be no survivors. Not if I don’t put out these fires.
I can hear the five alarms blaring now. What was that? Sorry, I couldn't quite make you out over the roar of the sirens. But best to save it for later anyway, because if I don’t don my respirator, duty belt, oxygen tank, and other heavy equipment and jump down this pole onto the back of a fire truck (metaphorically speaking, of course) these fires will never be extinguished.
Spoiler Alert! Have you seen Backdraft? That movie from like, 1991 or so? Starring Kurt Russell, Robert DeNiro, and Donald Sutherland (he's Kiefer dad). Also one of the Baldwins (not Alec). Lots of cool stuff happened in that movie, including this one scene--right in the middle of a fire!--when Not-Alec-Baldwin figures out Kiefer’s dad is secretly the arsonist they’ve been tracking the whole movie. DUN-DUN-DUN! And there’s this perfect line about firemen too: “The funny thing about firemen, night and day, they’re always firemen.” And this one other totally perfect line about fire: “It’s a living thing. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. The only way to beat it is to think like it.”
So true! Whoever wrote that was like, in my MIND.
The funny thing about putting out fires, is that if it's your job to put out fires, night and day, your'e always doing it no matter what. For example: I saw these particular fires ignite at 9:30 p.m. last night, and I considered letting them smolder. Then I thought better of it. That's not what a good fireman does! He doesn't just let the whole fucking place burn to the ground! See, email and voice mail are living things: They come off the server. They lay in wait in your in box with a little red blinking light or bold-faced "unread" font. They gobble up all your time. And they definitely--definitely--hate you.
The only way to beat these fires is to think like them. WWME&VMD? (What Would My Email and Voicemail Do?) They would not give two hard shits if I was already three sheets to the wind, blatantly not on the clock, and in absolutely no position to address them. They would leave themselves at my doorstep and say "Here I am! I am a fire! Put me the fuck out! NOW!"
So again, sorry. But that's what I'm doing. I'm putting out fires. I'll call you later, m'kay?