Fire in the Disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!

July 8, 2008 § 5 Comments

Before I go into this long-ass recap of the late-night fire alarm, know this: The fire alarm seems to go off frequently in our building. It’s not unusual for me to find the big heavy fire doors locked shut in our wing when I leave for work early in the morning. It’s not unusual for firetrucks to roll up to the lobby in the evenings.

I will also say this: Each unit in our building is equipped with a security announcement system so that, I guess, if a tornado or Godzilla or something is imminent, everyone in the building can be notified to take cover.

I have never heard the in-condo announcement system used, ever.

(Before 1 a.m. on Sunday night, that is.)

We had spent the night playing Rock Band (shocker), and I went to bed a little bit after 10 p.m. I have no idea what time Scott came to bed, because I immediately fell asleep, and the next thing I knew, all I could hear was THERE IS A FIRE IN THE BUILDING PLEASE EVACUATE IMMEDATELY WOOOOOP WOOOOOOOP WOOP WOOP THERE IS A FIRE IN THE BUILDING PLEASE EVACUATE IMMEDATELY WOOOOOP WOOOOOOOP WOOP WOOP THERE IS A FIRE IN THE BUILDING PLEASE EVACUATE IMMEDATELY WOOOOOP WOOOOOOOP WOOP WOOP. And repeat non-stop, for the next four paragraphs.

There was a lot of sleepy fumbling around (I remember thinking that I needed to put on a sweatshirt, because I wasn’t wearing a bra, and wondering ‘Where are my pants?’). I stopped to pee. (I know.) I’m not really sure what Scott was doing (peeing? [we pee A LOT, ok?]), but after peeing I started to wake up a little bit, and it’s important here for me to express how shocking it was to be woken up like that, given the amount of previous data we had on fire alarms: This kind of thing didn’t happen. This was unusual. This must be serious.

This realization led me to the office, where we keep the cat carriers. I pulled both down off the shelf and went searching for the animals. They were hiding under the bed; Scott and I tag-teamed to get them out and into the carriers, which was surprisingly easy, and then we bolted. I paused for a split second in the living room and wondered if I should grab photo albums (which is ridiculous because we don’t really have photo albums), and then we left.

We walked down eight floors to get outside, and somewhere around the seventh floor I started losing my shit. The stairwell was all loud evacuation announcement and flashing lights and angry mewing cats, and it suddenly hit me that I was terrified. I hadn’t grabbed my wallet. I had surprisingly not grabbed anything except for husband, keys, phone and cats (those are the important things, yes, I know, but once out I started thinking about my new Marc Jacobs blouse and the Wii — I am an evil person, I know). Plus, I was barefoot. I was completely discombobulated.

I wasn’t the only one.

The scene outside in the south parking lot was a lot of people just like me — freaked out, teary, holding kids and leashes. We were only out there for maybe two minutes when we heard sirens; we took the cats to Scott’s car and settled them in the backseat with the AC on (it was about 90 degrees and humid — the sweatshirt I put on was a bad idea). He went to check out what was going on in the front of building. I couldn’t see anything odd about the building, except that almost every light was on in our wing, the east wing, while the south and west wings seemed darker. Scott came back after 15 minutes or so with nothing to report; firemen were still milling about but no one seemed overly frenetic. We sat in the car for another 10 minutes (it’s worth noting how GOOD the cats were; they aren’t fans of being in their carriers, or the car, but they both immediately sprawled out and rolled around goofily once we had them settled), and then I volunteered to walk around to the front. I only got about halfway there when our next-door neighbor stopped me and said we had been cleared to go back inside.

And so we went back inside, where we wandered around the place for about two hours, wondering if it was OK to go to sleep. When I finally did go to bed, I tossed and turned, and, at one point, I had a dream that the in-condo alarm clicked on again, but there was no announcement playing — we could just hear that static hum — so that we went to the lobby and screamed at the security guard. (I’m pretty sure it was a dream.) I think I slept, maybe, a nervous 20 minutes all night.

This was a pretty long story, eh? I’m still not sure at this point whether or not there even was a fire — I sent building management a note asking about it, but they didn’t explain (though they did tell me that the in-unit announcement is a zone alarm that turns on in all common areas as well as the affected floor, and above and below the affected floor, anytime there’s an overall alarm). I do know this — when I got home from work on Monday night, there was a firetruck outside, but all was quiet inside.

I feel like this story needs a bow of some sort, so here goes: Things I learned in the fire/non-fire:

Lesson No. 1: Calamities make Scott and I silent. We don’t remember speaking to each other at all until we got outside the condo. We just grabbed cats and left like robots. (Though maybe that was because we were half asleep.)
Lesson No. 2: I am a crier. Although Scott nicely pointed out that at least I didn’t collapse or anything like some dumb chick in an action movie.
Lesson No. 3: Update Twitter after emergency (and/or leave cell phone behind). I needlessly freaked people out because I was freaked out.
Lesson No. 4: We live in a big building. Even if it’s a zone alarm, if we hear the announcement again, we could probably look in the hallway, look for smoke, etc. before rushing outside.
Lesson No. 5: Keep pack of cigarettes and flask of Maker’s in car. They would’ve come in handy.

§ 5 Responses to Fire in the Disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!

  • green-eyed girl says:

    This sounds terrifying and more to the point, extremely ANNOYING.


  • betheboy says:

    At my house we are glad you’re ok.

  • Travis says:

    I had a similar experience years ago. I took my cigarettes. That is all. To my minor credit, I did not have a cat at the time. Nonetheless…

    On a more amusing note, it did smoke out a couple of surprising bed partners in the building, which was filled mostly with grad students.

  • Green says:

    Wow. This has happened to me – I too, was not wearing a bra. I too, put on a sweatshirt. I did not stop to pee, but did put on flip flops. Grabbed keys, wallet, and cell phone. Have no cats, no men, no WII, no Marc Jabobs (wow, your life seems pretty awesome right now compared to mine).

    Also a false alarm. Also had a hard time getting back to sleep.

    Um hi. Found you through Be the Boy.

  • The fire alarm goes off every now and then at my condo building. The first time was great, because I got to meet many of my neighbors outside the building. But there was no fire. The second time, I saw a few neighbors outside. And every time after that, I didn’t bother leaving my unit. So, when there was a shooting at my building last weekend, I assumed it was fireworks and didn’t go outside. It’s sad. One of these days, there’ll be a real fire, people will die, and the management will be sued.

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