According to Wikipedia, a “Chinese fire drill” is defined as:

“a prank that was popular in the United States during the 1960s. It is performed when a car is stopped at a red traffic light, at which point all of the car’s occupants get out, run around the car, and return to their own (or other) seats. “The term is also used as a figure of speech to mean any large, ineffective, and chaotic exercise. It is alleged to have originated in the early 1900s, during an naval incident wherein a ship manned by British officers and a Chinese crew set up a fire drill for fighting a fire in the engine room. In the event of a fire the crew was to form a bucket brigade, drawing water from the starboard side, taking it to the engine room and throwing it on the ‘fire’. Because water would accumulate in the engine room, another crew was to take the excess thrown water and haul it back up to the main deck, and then heave it over the port side (in order to bail it out).When the drill was called the first moments went according to plan, but then orders became confused in translation. The crew for the bucket brigade began drawing the water from the starboard side, running over to the port side, and then throwing the water over, and so by-passing the engine room completely. Thus the expression “Chinese Fire Drill” entered our lexicon as meaning a large confused action by individuals accomplishing nothing.”

I bet you’re wondering why I mentioned all this, making you read stuff all early in the morning. It’s because I had an interesting Friday morning at work. As I’ve mentioned in Chinese 101 and Chinese 102, I work for a Chinese company with many native Chinese employees, which means that even eating lunch in the breakroom is a cultural event. Well, on Friday, the fire alarm went off in the building. I’m on the 5th floor, and I immediately began grabbing my shit, ’cause fire or no fire, I’m not leaving my iPod in here to die. I’d pay ransom money for my iPod. I love it that much. Our receptionist was walking nearby, and I asked her if this was a drill, ’cause at Cisco, they ran fire drills pretty often, but they’d let you know it was a drill so that you wouldn’t trample people as you ran screaming for the nearest exit. She told me that we don’t do drills here, so I began double-timing my packing efforts.

As I finally scooped up my backpack and rounded the corner of my office, aiming for the stairwell, I saw the unexplainable – a large group of my coworkers, milling about, not moving, not heading for the stairwell, not doing ANYTHING except making small talk in the hallway, all while an inferno was surely blazing somewhere on a floor below. I was actually stunned -if this was anywhere else, there’d be at least 3 people with Florsheim footprints on the backs of their necks from people stepping on them to get at the stairs. I made up my mind right there that somebody was about to get run smooth the hell over, and just as I started my Bataan Death March toward the crowd, the alarm shut off. Crisis averted. Turns out they were just testing the system. But as I watched everyone shuffle off to their desks, a thought occurred to me. It was an evil thought. I didn’t ask for it; it approached me from behind, offering me Tang and oatmeal pies and Playstation Portables. It invited itself into my brain, put its feet on my coffee table, and bought $100 worth of adult channels. It called my mama a bitch and ran up my light bill.

And do you wanna know what that thought was, that evil, evil thought?

“Holy shit. This is a REAL LIVE Chinese fire drill!”

I am so going to hell.

Peace.

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