My friend J** was a good beginning racer in the late 1980s,
good IV (there were only four categories for men at the time).
In particular he was pretty skinny and a good climber, so he was hoping to do well at the *****field Road Race, which was held on the second Sunday in May.
J** was also a bad student, or rather, he was a badly behaved student. He'd done a bunch of wild stuff. He went to ****** University in Boston and lived in a big tower that comprised 24 floors of dorm rooms. Anyway, earlier in the semester he had done something with a fire alarm or a fire extinguisher or something, something that he shouldn't have done. And he'd gotten caught. As a result, he was banned from living in the dorm. He could still visit, and even use his desk in his old room to study, but he couldn't spend the night or be there after 9pm. If he did, and the Resident Advisor caught him, he'd be kicked out of school.
So he slept most nights in his parents' place in a far suburb of Boston. This was a bit inconvenient, but it was better than getting kicked out of school. Plus he'd often commute on his bike. Gotta get those miles in, right?
This night, though, he chose to sleep in his old bed in the dorm. He was meeting the guys driving to the race at 6am in Boston, at K****** Square, and no way was he going to schlep all the way into town from his parents' place that early. Plus, at that time in the morning there was no way would the RA's see him leaving -- they'd be asleep. So no worries.
Or actually one worry. The end-of-semester parties throughout the dorm were getting pretty wild and pretty loud, so he was having a bit of trouble getting to sleep and he really wanted to sleep well so he'd be fresh for the race.
In particular, the partyers were throwing mirrors or windows or something down the elevator shafts and screaming and yelling about it. J** had done that a while back -- at the end of the fall semester. And he hadn't gotten caught. But as I said he had gotten caught setting off a fire extinguisher or something, so here he was hiding in his dorm room on the last day of the year, trying to get some sleep.
At last J** kind of got used to sound of the music and smashing mirrors and yelling and was almost asleep. He had just dozed off when the building's fire alarms went off. Great. So he kind of scrunched up a pillow over his head to damp the new, louder noise and struggled to relax. After about twenty minutes he'd almost gotten used to the whine of the alarms and was just settling back into sleep when a third, odder sound was thrown into the mix -- the sound of someone pounding on doors, doors opening and then being slammed shut. And that pounding was coming closer and closer.
J** thought about this for awhile and realized that this was no false alarm. Rather, the fire was real and firemen or someone was going door to door to make sure everyone was out of the building.
But he didn't smell smoke, so he wasn't worried about dying yet. Instead he was afraid the firemen would force him out of the building. The RA's would be sure to see him -- they'd be in the crowd waiting outside -- and he would get kicked out of school during the very last week of the school year. That, as they say around Boston, would be a wicked pisser. Plus he'd have to go home, then get up a few hours later, and come back downtown again to catch his ride to the race.
So J** grabbed a pillow, hid under the bed and went to sleep. The firemen opened his door and, not seeing anyone, left him in peace. The fire either wasn't very serious or was put out because J** didn't die that night. In fact, it was quite a bit more peaceful under the bed than it had been on top of it. And when the partying started again a few hours later J** was asleep at last.
Nonetheless, he didn't feel great the next morning and didn't do
very well at the race.