We had a fire:
We didn’t talk too much about it or post it on social media sites. Too many people we love have lost children, so to boo-hoo about stuff seemed somehow wrong.
Christmas + ice storm:
It was just before Christmas and we were on the third day of the great Toronto power outage and ice storm.We were bundled in coats and under blankets, camping in our living room near the fireplace.
Our neighbour Rosa with the gas stove brought over two hot meals a day and a pot of tea at night.
I’d gone out to run an errand in my car. The roads were barely passable, and most stations had run out of gas. Waiting for something, I sat in my car with the engine off, but the key turned.
It wasn’t a good day:
The car wouldn’t start. So the lovely ladies at Trinity Gallery called CAA for me and kept their store open so I could stay warm until help arrived.
My cell phone was down, as most were then because the ice storm had knocked out the cell towers too.When I walked back in the door at home, Mike was just putting down the phone, and he said “Don’t take off your coat. The house is on fire — between the floors they think. Floors could collapse. We have to go.”
How’s this for luck?
Now there’s something you need to know. A few months before, Mike had helped a friend clean out his father’s apartment after the dad moved into an assisted living facility. Mike’s friend’s father had been a painter and done beautiful work, some of it is quite valuable.
So as a thank you, his friend said “please, take anything in the house you would like.” I think his friend was a bit surprised when Mike said “you know what I’d really like? That old push button phone from the 80’s.”
I know, right?
Those old push button phones are the only things that work during a power outage.
With the power out and cell phones down, we were the only people on our block who actually could call the fire department.
But wait, there’s more!
I had bought Mike a pair of reading glasses that had built in reading lights. He was reading in the darkness with those glasses, lifted his head, and the light picked up a tiny puff of smoke coming out between two floor boards.
That’s how he was able to catch the fire so early.
Here’s how it went down:
“Have you got your wedding ring on?” I asked him.
“Yes I do,” he said. “Have you?”
“Yes. I haven’t even taken the passports out of my purse from our last trip.”
“We have everything we need,” he said. “Let’s go.”
A hard goodbye:
He got his coat on, and we walked to the door. At the threshold, we both turned around.
“You know, we’re going to have to be okay with watching this place burn to the ground. Can you do it?”
“I can,” he said looking around the place one last time.
“I can too,” I said.
So we walked down the steps, past the stone pillars, lovingly built by a stone Mason 100 years ago, maybe even the father of my stepfather because that’s what he did.
“Please spare the pillars,” I thought.
Long wait ahead:
So there we were at the foot of our driveway on the sidewalk, waiting for a fire department that could take hours to get there. It was, the dispatcher told Mike, the busiest day anyone had remembered on the service for more than 40 years.
I suddenly had a terrible thought and grabbed Mike’s arm.
“We left David inside.”
David was Mike’s younger brother who had died two Christmases before, his ashes taking an honoured place in our home. I started up the walk, but Mike grabbed my arm.
“Honey, there is absolutely nothing that can happen to David now that hasn’t already happened,” he said.
Which I found hysterically funny. So when the fire trucks pulled up, the two of us were doubled over laughing.
“You guys are really lucky,” the first firefighter said when he jumped out of the truck. “We were just on a fire around the corner. Otherwise, I don’t know when we could have gotten here.”
We were even luckier when I realized that they’d come pretty much the only way they could have, not the most intuitive, every other way blocked by downed trees. It wasn’t by planning but circumstance since that was the fastest route from their last call.
They assessed the situation, brought in a big axe and had the hoses at the ready.”We’re going to have to go through your floor.””Do what you have to do.”No sense crying over things that can’t cry over you.
Thank you Rosa and Kevin:
We went next door to Rosa and Kevin’s and sat by their fireplace in the darkness until the firefighters came and got us.”Hey look, I can see my furnace from the living room!” Mike said.
No room at the inn:
We gathered a few things and headed out to find a hotel.Did I mention that we were on day three of a power outage? The first four hotels we drove to were booked.
Fifth time’s the charm:
Stinking like smoke, we rolled into the Hyatt Regency. Success! Heat, lights, power outlets and a shower. They took pity on us and sent up a beautiful complimentary breakfast.
They wanted to know if we were coping and how we were. And they told us cleaners would be at our house within the hour.
The adjuster said, “I’m going to find you someone really good, someone local. Because we find if they know they might bump into you at the grocery store, they care just a bit more.”
That made all the difference:
The first person we met when we got back to our home was Dave from Con-Tech.
It was Boxing Day. He walked through the house and told us what would happen when. And he promised us everything would be okay.
Vanessa was the lead technician responsible for removing the smoke and the grime from our home. She explained everything she was doing and took care of our belongings like they were her own.
Our house but better:
When the machines had pulled out the smoke, and the walls were scrubbed, it was time to look at rebuilding our floors and fireplace/chimney.
Trevor from Carleton Chimney shared Mike’s offbeat sense of humour and the next thing I knew, Teddy bears were regularly climbing up from the basement into the living room.
How awesome was Trevor?
When we told Trevor we wanted to match the almost 100-year-old trim of the house for the mantle, he took a half day searching for the exact right stain that would pull our whole house together.
Both Daves and Con-Tech Restoration too:
And when the floor people forgot to replace the trim, Dave’s painter, also named Dave, went out, bought the trim and finished the work himself.
And these crazy kids:
Frank Goodrich and Taylor Meredith, the best real estate agents in the universe, helped us make design decisions as did our oh-so-talented designer friend Heather Martin.
Another friend, Drew Cox, mocked up the mantle for us to give to Trevor.
And for almost a year, we had some of the very nicest most talented craftspeople in our home. There wasn’t one among them who didn’t care about giving us our home back. And they did a great job.
My point is:
While this post may not be about brand storytelling or PR, it is living proof that people want to share the stories about good businesses that do all the right things when you need them to.