18 July 2011

Up In Flames

That night over a decade ago now, was like most back then. Four of my housemates and I were lazily hanging around our inner city flat doing what students do best after a "hectic" day in college.

One was in the living room flicking through all sixteen(!) cable channels that we had just signed-up to. Another was whispering God only knows what over the phone to his girlfriend. The same girlfriend who he'd just waved goodbye to less than half an hour earlier. Two (counting myself) were taking turns having a go at an intense game of Championship Manager (when CM was still good and before the game morphed into Football Manager). CM-fueled Peter Stuyvesant and Dunhil smoke filled the air of the larger of the two bedrooms in the apartment as the remaining flatmate was fast asleep.

It was the middle of winter but the weather was still quite mild by Dublin standards and all five of us were disappointed that we hadn't seen snow. It was such a Malaysian thing. It's as if our Hari Raya photos won't count as pics from overseas if there weren't any snow in the background. We'd be condemned as fraudsters who only popped over to Bandung instead and not Mat Salleh-overseas proper.

All of a sudden, the dude in the living room shouted - snow! He was taking a break from channel-surfing and noticed specks of white falling from the sky through the flat's balcony windows. Three of us dropped what we were doing and rushed to the living room. One was so eager and went straight for the balcony window, opened it and peered out of it. He popped his head back in but instead of child-like smile, we were met with a face of young man who was turning a bluish-green and was half-choking to death.

Errr...that can't be good. That can't be snow, we thought collectively while waiting for our flatmate to catch his breath. But before our flatmate could provide us with an explanation, there came a voice that seemed to come from the heavens at the time...

It's NOT snow you feckin' eejits! It's a car up in flames.

The "heavenly" voice was actually an occupant who was a couple of floors above us and could clearly see through the smoke and falling ash (formerly known to us as snow). And, I didn't think the Almighty would have a thick north Dublin city accent.

You lads have a phone? Well, call the fire brigade will ya...

I picked up the phone and dialled the emergency line. There was no answer and only a strange ringing tone instead.

I can't get through...

What do you mean you can't get through? What number did you ring?


This isn't America! This is Ireland. It's 999.

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