Of the Old Town Gas Leak Yesterday.

I saw yesterday and read this morning about a gas leak in Wichita’s Old Town, which reminded me of a story from back in my Dish Network days. The firm headquarters out of Englewood, Colorado, in two four-story offices reaching approximately 700,000 square feet and housing around 5,000 employees (give or take, economy depending). So the story goes, and I haven’t researched it, that the firm’s CEO, Charlie Ergen, bought the two buildings at steep discount from Meryl Lynch, who built them during the tech boom (Englewood is in the Denver Tech District). In the lobby of the second building, behind the receptionist, in stained blue glass is a cutting of Meryl’s famous bull symbol.

The HQ’s two exterior buildings

The HQ’s two exterior buildings

I worked on the fourth floor of Building 1, which housed the marketing, consumer, commercial, and programming departments, as well as the CMO and executive leadership team. I’m unsure how many people worked on the floor of the building where my department sat, but it was a lot—over 500.

One afternoon I was sitting at my desk when I smelled natural gas. This to me was a remarkable development since, from how I saw it, the gas must have traveled a long way to reach me. And why, since my desk sat in the center of the floor, was I the only one to notice the odor? I went to my boss’s office and asked her if she recognized it. She thought perhaps the odor was there, but she thought we ought to check with the facilities department to see what they knew.

We called, and they said they had no reports or indication of a gas leak. That was it; I returned to my desk.

The interior of one of the firm’s HQ buildings.

But the smell persisted. As I sat at my desk I could not help but think of how angry I’d be if I died in a natural gas explosion that I had earlier reported. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I went back to my boss and told her something like this: “Hey, I know I’m probably just overreacting, but I know I smell natural gas. I’m leaving.” She told me okay—let’s think about that for a moment: I wanted to ask permission to exit a potentially life-threatening situation—so I left. (I would have left regardless.)

I chose the stairs over the elevator. If something went wrong while I was exiting, the last thing I wanted was to be trapped in an elevator. (Again, logistics here are important: inside the building is a large opened space and on each side are the floors with their respective offices; I was walking down a stairway that was opened into the opened space.)

When I reached the second floor, I heard a massive alarm sound. It was the kind of sound made in submarine movies when the captain orders the boat to dive. A voice came over a loud speaker ordering all employees to evacuate due to a gas leak in the building’s infrastructure.

I’m unsure there’s a moral here, but if there is, I guess it’s this: Trust your instincts—this is somewhat of a theme throughout my blog posts. You have them for a reason. And just because everyone tells you you’re wrong, there’s also a chance you may be right. Probably you are wrong, but I’d rather be alive and wrong than dead and right.

Parker McConachieComment