Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Well, I was working!.. not very hard, not very focused, just enough to call it work, with a slight feeling of guilt for those money I would cash in at the end of the month. It was one of the first days of spring in Larnaca, and the sun was there, smiling at everybody, trying to reassure us that summer was on the way, after a long and freezing winter. It was midday, and the town paced itself to the lazy way of  a Cypriot afternoon, ready for an afternoon nap. But, somewhere it was very different...

While enjoying the day, I get the first sign of fire: smell of burnt plastic... than, I see a column of smoke rising... and no alarm, no siren... what is going on?!... I wait for a minute, while trying to figure out where it's all happening, and its close, maybe a couple of hundred meters from my workplace. And still, no siren, no sound of fire engines rushing to the scene. What's happening?!... I decide to call, and dial 112 trusting someone else was faster than me, but it's better to make sure.

"-Alo! I would... " is all I get to say, before the voice of a man interrupts me almost angry at me for daring to dial the emergency number
"-Ne, re, xero... xero" (as in: "yes, mate, I know...") was the reply to an unspoken question

I tried to tell him that I want to report a fire, and he dismissed me very quickly, not even trying to figure out if I am talking about the same fire as he was. I had to insist in telling him at least the area of the incident. And, I ask myself, is this guy paid from the taxes that I pay? That thought was scared away by the sound of the fire engine rushing to the scene. They were coming... finally!

I shook my head in disbelief. You can explain delays in procedures, you can say it is expensive to run an emergency service, or any other public utility company, but you cannot explain attitude! you cannot explain failure to appropriately answer an emergency call! A life, or someone's life savings might depend on that call; it's almost as if I see the power plant explosion all over again, and it's this sort of complacent and relaxed approach, together with a spark, that makes disaster happen. I would not forgive a dispatcher who rushes me, saying he already knows all about it, and sends the ambulance to a wrong address, while a member of my family or a loved one dies. I would not forgive a job so poorly done! Would you?

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