The factory was an old one, mostly of wood and other inflammable material. No one thought much about it because they had never experienced a fire firsthand. Most of the workers were far too busy with other considerations to think of the consequences of a fire. Some worked very hard and some drove the workers to produce even more products.
There were a few respites from this labor, though. Men gathered around the water cooler to talk about sports. Ladies slipped away to the powder room for a bit of gossip. Some techies plied their computers and occasionally indulged in personal communication.But no one foresaw the terrible fire that would break out this day. Some began to smell smoke. Others noticed the beginning of a vague panic--people beginning to group around elevators.
Two men, eating at their desks, had thermos bottles on their benches, still unopened, when the flames came through the ceiling. Instant action was called for. That is when each man determined his course of action.
One man, the older of the two, headed for the fire escape, figuring the elevators would be jammed with crowds of people, and perhaps cease to function altogether. He expected the younger man to follow, but as he glanced over his shoulder, he was amazed to see his companion still standing by his table, thermos in hand with the top open.
"Why aren't you coming?" he called.
"I'm no coward!" the younger man replied, "I'm going to stay right here and fight this thing. I'll pour my thermos on it, if necessary."
As the older man was leaving the building, he thought he would try once more to reason with his friend. "A little thermos of coffee won't stop this fire."
"Perhaps not, but if we got everyone to pour out their drinks, we could still beat this thing. I am going to ask others to do what I'm doing, and then tell others. Soon we'll have enough people to put out the fire."
The fire escape was growing warm as the old man stepped out of the window. By the time he reached the sidewalk the building was engulfed in flames. Still carrying his coffee he found his way to the edge of the fire line. He extended the bottle to a weary fireman standing by a fire truck. The man had just exited the building.
"I tried to save people, but I was too late." He gulped down a cup of the coffee and held out his cup to the old man.
"Keep it," the old man said. "I can get another one when I get to a safe place."