Thursday, June 17, 2010


(I didn't intend to have the title in CAPS [BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IT SOUNDS LIKE I AM SHOUTING], but it accidentally was left on from something else I wrote [I bet you're all wondering what else I wrote. Do I shout when I write shopping lists? Am I writing an entire novel in capital letters? Is it my idea of fun to leave the caps lock on just to see how annoyed I get when I rediscover it?]. Besides, I figured that with a word like ALARM!!! the caps fit. No one whispers alarm, anyway...)

I don't know what gets you "fired up" in the morning (I swear, that sounds dirtier than I intended. A lot of things are different than what I intended today...), but this is what woke me up at crack of dawn: BEEP! BEEP! HONK! BEEP! WAAAAAAAAAP! (I'm having real issues with transcribing the exact sound the alarm made, because a} I was asleep so it took a few seconds and some well-placed hits directed at my alarm clock before I realized it was a different type of alarm; b} describing the sound of alarms [of any kind] in words is tough - there's a challenge for writers; and c} did I mention I was asleep? Oh, well, then c} ought to be something about denial. I think I am in denial. Did this really happen?)

Well, yes, there can't be any doubt. I am wearing a very randomly assembled mix of clothes and there are shoes spread across the floor. SOMETHING happened here. I'm thinking that I'd do best in a court of law sticking with the "I was abruptly awoken by the fire alarm this morning"-story...

The moment I stopped hitting my alarm clock, however, I was able to identify that the BEEP-HONK-WAAAP sounds were coming from my ceiling, and once my zombie brain had made that connection I slowly began to realize that since I had no alarm clock installed in the ceiling [though that might be efficient, come to think of it] this probably meant that it would be a good idea to get up and figure out why there was an alarm trying to pry my ears off (can I say that? It sure FELT as though the alarm was trying something that, but this might be an extreme case of me animating dead things in writing again. Though to call that alarm "dead" is an understatement to say the least!).

Once on my feet, I assembled the aforementioned random mix of clothes and hastily put them on. I think I spun around my own axis for something like 30 precious seconds (those seconds could be the difference between life and death in the case of a fire, you know) wondering if that top really went with those capris. And then I remembered that I probably would not be asked to defend my fashion choices once outside - and that I didn't have the time to wash my face, so I wouldn't win any beauty contests anyway. Instead I rushed to the door, knocking over every pair of shoes someone had carelessly left there the night before. I can't imagine who would do such a thing.

As I was about to leave, however, I remembered one thing. If this really was a fire, I had never thought through the epic question "what would you save in a fire?". Actually, that is not true. I have thought it through, but I have always done so in preparation for the question "what would you save in a fire?", not the actual situation. There is a difference, you see. If asked this question, you are supposed to say "family members and pets" if there are any about, and once these are taken care of, you are supposed to have a carefully considered item you would rescue after you heroically had made sure no living things were left in the house. "My grandmother's photo album" is a good answer. As is "the charity money for poor children in Africa - I keep them [the money, not the children] in my house because I don't trust corporate banks. I'm a saint [not thief. Saint]". Even "my old teddy bear that I keep in my room to remind me of my inner child" would do, even though everyone would wonder if you also have it in your bed at night.

My prepared answer would be more in the teddy bear variety than the charity money one, though in the end it doesn’t matter what I would have replied to that question, because I certainly would not have replied what I actually ended up doing.

I leapt over the shoes again to make arrangements. First I closed the window, because I remember from fire drills at school that we were supposed to do that. Back then it seemed stupid to me, because if there really was a fire I'd rather have the window open in case I had to jump (I was already then aware that whenever the hero jumps through a window in movies, it’s a trick. Let’s just say it was hard-earned knowledge). What I wasn’t aware of back then, but that I later have learned, is the fact that fires also need oxygen to breathe. Keeping this in mind, I closed the window.

After I had safely secured the handle of the window (I wasn’t going to let as much as a [whatever quantum oxygen is measured in – milliliters? Ounces?] of oxygen feed that fire), I picked up a bag in which I started dumping things I imagined I’d need if my building burned down. I brought keys and my cell phone. I brought my wallet. I briefly considered bringing my signed copy of The Other Hand, but then I decided that I would probably not have the time to read anything. Besides, Chris Cleave is so nice that he’d probably sign me a new copy if I wrote to him saying that my book died in a fire. I did bring my laptop (the new, shiny, tiny one), but I left my calendar (why in the world would I want to bring that anyway?). When I finally was heading out I wondered if I should also do the dishes and tidy up a little before leaving, in case there would be firemen stumbling in, but then I remembered that firemen probably don’t care so much anyway (not because they are careless people, but you know – because they care about saving lives, not dishes). Then I realized that the ALARM was still BEEPING and WAAAAPING and HONKING (it probably wasn’t honking. That just makes it sound like the alarm was angry because of the traffic. There wasn’t any traffic to speak of), and I ran.

The second I left the building, the alarm stopped. Not even a tiny “bleep?” after that. There were a few people standing outside (I finally got to meet some neighbours! Good thing I hadn’t had the time to wash my face…), but everyone started going back inside once the alarm went off. There was a red light flashing on our building (and before you ask – NO, I do NOT live in the Red Light district… I think it’s a lamp to show which building the firemen should try to save. You know, if there had been firemen. And a fire). I’m fairly certain that you’re not supposed to go back inside until the red light stops flashing, but since everyone else was doing it (if all of my neighbours were to die in a fire, it would be very unpatriotic of me to remain outside, wouldn’t it?). Then again, I was fairly certain that there was no real fire (probably just someone who had disconnected their stove timer), and since I could see no real (or unreal, for that matter) firemen, I did not consider it a peril to my life to go back inside. Good thing I brought that key.

There ought to be some flashy way to finish this story, but in reality the false alarm story ends with me sitting here writing this, and then doing the dishes (or so I plan). For the future, though, I probably should try to keep a bag ready packed, a set of clothes neatly folded next to my bed and my apartment should constantly look impeccable; or I’ll most likely die in a fire someday…


Jan Morrison said...

oh, I love this story! We don't know what we'll do in any moment of stress. I am really scared of bears and fantasize daily (while walking the pooch) what I'll do if I see one. A few months ago, I thought I heard one and I immediately shouted out "OK OK, we're going home now so never mind!" wtf? Canadian meets bear - tries politeness!

Cruella Collett said...

Haha - that made me laugh! I've always heard that you should either slowly back away or lay down and play dead if runing into a bear (two things that seems fairly difficult to combine, so you'd have to take your chances and pick one). From now on I'll recommend the Canadian way, though!

Palindrome said...

this has happened so many times in my building, I'm pretty sure I'm prepared. Or at least always keep my phone and keys and flipflops nearby. Although in the winter, it's hell because you have to remember a coat and boots and try not to be wearing feety pjs with a butt flap. That's not what I call my butt but an actual flap, er protecting my butt.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, that would scare the crap out of me. I'd probably panic but in my house, there are no fire alarms at all and if there were a fire, I'd be burned alive because all our windows are barred.. Ah, nice thought.


Cruella Collett said...

Palindrome - I am trying very hard not to imagine creative uses of the word butt flap now... ANYWAY, sounds like you're a lot better prepared than I was!

Clarissa - yikes, you better not start a fire, then! Any chance those windows unbar in case of fire..?

Jemi Fraser said...

I'd probably be useless & forget the important stuff & bring toothpaste or something along those lines. :)

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