Life if full of false alarms. False labor pains, false positives, false election results….. They are all around us. The false alarm I am referring to today is the alarm in the form of flashing lights and really really loud beeping sometimes followed by a recorded voice telling you to move to the nearest exit…actual alarms. I bet you 90% of people that hear an alarm don’t think anything of it, except for me of course. Yeah I am a panicker but it’s not without reason and experience. If the alarm is telling me to get out, I am gonna get the hell out!
The other day at work the fire alarm went off. Ok. I looked around and everyone was plugging away at their work. No one seemed to care except for you know who. As it continued, people eventually began to question what was going on but no one got up to leave. UNTIL that is, a panicked voice gets on the speaker and tells everyone to walk to the nearest fire exit and await further instructions. Oh boy! I am panicking but trying not to show it. What the hell could this be? Three possibilities ran through my head. Yes my imagination is a little out of control. Yes I tend to panic over nothing. But these three possible options are not that unrealistic. I have first hand experience so give me a few courage points here.
Possibility #1, fire.
Let's travel back in time to 2001…..I think. I was living in PA in a lovely apartment with perhaps not the loveliest of neighbors. Unless you count nightly police presence due to drugs and domestic violence lovely. I was usually home alone as my roommate was a swimmer and often out of town at meets. It was a regular occurrence that the fire alarm would go off and beep incessantly. Usually we would just chalk it up to a bad battery and go to bed. One night, as I was of course home alone, the alarm went off again. It seemed to go on much longer than normal so I ventured out in to the hallway. After seeing smoke come out from under the door I realized that this is indeed not a false alarm. Another neighbor kicked the door in and removed the burning pot that was left on the stove. After Fire guys (excuse me, fire people) pumped out the smoke, I was able to return to my undamaged apartment.
Now let’s move up the time line a few months. I am home alone eating ice cream in my PJ’s. Did I mention it was 9 o’clock? The alarm goes off again. After the last time I was pissed so I headed back to the hallway to investigate only to find the hallway filled with smoke. Super! I ran back in to my apartment to call 9-1-1. The lady on the phone could not have been anymore disinterested. I can’t express the lack of concern in her voice in words, but damn honey, my building is on fire. Have a little compassion and sense of urgency. I grabbed my purse and headed (in my PJ’s) out into the dark rainy night to watch my life burn from the parking lot. I did have a kind invitation to stay at someone’s house from a neighbor on the other side of the fence. Um, no thank you! Long story short, the apartment to blame (same one as last time), which happened to be Right across the hall from mine, lost EVRYTHING. Walking in to the hallway that wasn’t, we attempted successfully to get to my apartment with a fireman escort and flashlights in tow. Opening the scortched door was like heaven as it was white and beautiful inside although it smelled more like hell I would imagine. So, again, not a false alarm.
Possibility #2, crazy person with a gun.
We have to travel a little further back for this one to 1990something or other when I was in HS. I live in NJ. Not in a city area and where I went to High School the population was probably 500. Not really that small but it is a teeny tiny, no one leaves here kind of town. It was the start of the school day in homeroom when we are cryptically told to remain in the classroom. No one was allowed to leave including the teachers until given further instruction. Ok. Obviously not a fire. I mean I hope they are smart enough in this tiny town to evacuate the students in the case of a fire. What does that leave? I really had no idea. Turns out someone had eluded capture or prison or something and had taken up in the house across the street. There were apparently armed men on the roof!
Not too much later in that same small town I was working in a deli when I saw armed men out the window charging down the street. It was like a joke. The funnier part was all the people going outside to check it out. Really? I was taught to run from danger. Again, I guess it’s just me. I am the crazy one.
Possibility #3, I don’t really need to go there, especially since we are talking about New York City. Obviously that is still a possibility.
So back to this past week. As we all gather in the hallway wondering what the hell is going on the voice comes back in a panic. Apparently someone missed the how to handle a crisis seminar! I really don’t think you are supposed to let on how panicked you are to an entire building of people. Remain calm bitch, that’s what I would have liked to tell her. She freaked me the hell out. Our instructions we were awaiting never came so we proceeded down the 13 flights of stairs. All the while I am thinking we are gonna be trapped between 2 burning floors just at the same time the gunman arrives in our stairwell trying to flee. Thankfully I made it down just to find out a construction worker accidentally hit the alarm. Super. Thanks. I mean I could use the exercise but….
I was in the torture room at Ripley’s last summer when the alarm went off. NO one cared. I wanted to get the hell out but amidst the torture devices were a bunch of deaf tourists that didn’t hear the alarm. Employees were running around with walkie talkies and still no response. Well we stayed and like the other day it was indeed another false alarm.
To get to the point, amidst the many false alarms that come our way, there is always a positive somewhere in the crowd. You have to remain alert and aware and not take things and situations for granted. You may gamble and lose.