Some employees call it the “happy bus”. It got its name, because working for several professors at a prestigious university can be extremely stressful. Each one of the professors has an agenda and the admin has to please all of them and get things done on time. A ride on the “happy bus” is considered business, because the admin is actually going from one location to another, but it is much needed quiet time. Most admins arrive at their locations in a happy mood, therefore, it’s called the “happy bus”.
It was a warm, sunny Thursday morning. Joan was told she had to attend a morning meeting lasting 3 hours. She had mountains of work to do, but the thought of riding on the “happy bus” put her in a good mood.
We were good friends and she decided to check in with me as she waited for the “happy bus”. She called me on my cell phone and we talked for a few minutes. Just casual talk. We planned to meet for lunch the following Monday.
I remember hearing her say, “Here comes the bus. Gotta go. Bye!”
I hung up the phone and walked away from my computer. I heard a loud explosion that shook my house. It was followed by a second blast. No, it was not the Boston Marathon Bombing.
My computer was down and the light was blown out. I immediately smelled foul odor and ran down to the basement to check it out. I got to the electrical box to see what happened and I noticed right above my head, the electric wires were burning a groove in the rafters and the fluorescent lights were smoking and on fire.
I ran from the basement to check out the side of the house. It was smoking. The electric cable that ran from the pole to the house was on fire and it burnt the side of my house. It also blew the cable box off the house.
I immediately called 911 and the firefighters arrived in about 4 minutes. They shut off the main electric switch and checked everything out thoroughly. When they tried to turn the electricity back on, it blew out all the fuses.
They told me to contact an electrician immediately and he would let me know what needed to be done. Before leaving my house, a firefighter asked me where I was, when the fire started. I told him I had just hung up the phone and walked away from my computer.
He walked me back into the house and showed me where the interior cable box had blown off the wall and where it landed. He told me that if I had stayed on the phone and not walked away, I would have been electrocuted. It took a few minutes for that statement to sink in, but I realized how lucky I was to be alive.
When I called Joan to tell her about my ordeal, I tried to make it sound lighthearted and positive as I always do. I told her that the “happy bus” saved my life. If the bus had not come at that moment, we would have been talking on the phone and I wouldn’t be here to write this blog.
My instincts, as a virtual assistant, kicked in and I began to make some phone calls and get this project organized. I needed to get my house back in order. It was a lot like working for a client. All the people, involved in getting my house back in order, have different schedules and they have to coordinate with each other, but we’re all on the same team. We all have the same goal – get the house back up and running. For example, the electrician has to shut off the power from time to time to replace burnt wires. That means the cleaners cannot be there washing and cleaning other rooms.
The insurance adjuster has to come and then the damaged items can be taken away. New items have to be bought to take their places. My life has been totally disrupted. My daily schedule has been turned upside down and my concentration is really being tested. My mind is going in 10 different directions and I have so many questions.
As a virtual assistant, I learned to accept change and stay calm, write down what’s going on and what is said and by whom. I made a paper calendar, because my computer was destroyed and I used my calendaring skills to put some order to all the chaos. I also wrote down names, cell numbers and what type of work they do and made a simple address book that I can refer to, if I need to call someone.
I also created a list of all the damaged items with their model and serial numbers to show the insurance adjuster, when he came to the house. Many of my virtual assistant skills kicked in that day and the days that followed. It made me realize how important those skills are and that I can handle any crisis, even if it is my own.
This was a test of my skills and I hope I never get tested like this again, but it’s nice to know that under pressure and personal loss, I can provide calm, steady organizational skills and be an asset to those people, who come to help me. The fire made me accept change, put a positive spin on things and let me prove to myself that I am as good as I think I am.