Friday, August 05, 2005

Sound Sleepers

Awakened by an excruciatingly loud, piercing sound, my wife and I both leapt out of bed. I glanced at the alarm clock next to me - 2:40am - but it was not the source of the offending noise. Fire! It was the fire alarm in the hallway, but no sooner had we stumbled out of our room than it stopped.


No blaring fire alarm. And, more surprisingly, no frightened kids yelling for Mommy and Daddy! The fire alarm is literally right outside their rooms - how could they sleep through that?!? True, the alarm only sounded for about 5 seconds, but still it's not the sort of sound that one usually hears in the middle of the night... and it's freakin' loud! Sure, they may well wake at the sound of my foot stepping on a squeaky floorboard, but a high decibel fire alarm? No, sir! Not my kids.

It reminds me of another night over 15 years ago. Some friends and I had moved out of our parents' homes and rented an apartment together. I worked on a television show and on Sunday nights, when the show aired back then, I wouldn't get off work until about 1:00 in the morning. One Sunday night (or early Monday morning I suppose) as I neared our apartment complex, I was passed by a number of fire engines and emergency vehicles. I didn't really think much of it until I saw that they were turning into our community.

As I parked my car, I quickly discovered that not only was there a fire, but it was my building! Flames arced into the night sky as scores of firefighters fought the blaze with sprays of water. There was a crowd of people standing off to the side, out of harm's way. I recognized some of my neighbors but didn't see any of my roommates. The fire was still a good distance from the section of the building that housed our apartment, so I figured I would sneak in and at least grab some clothes and my valuables. I almost made it.

A firefighter noticed me as I snuck around the building and told me I couldn't go in, that the building had been evacuated. I mentioned that I was just returning from work, and just wanted to run in for a second and grab some essentials. I don't know why, but he acquiesced.

I sprinted up the steps, unlocked the door the stench of the burning building wafting into the apartment. I ran to my room, grabbed my briefcase and threw a few things into it. Then I noticed one of my roommates. Sound asleep on the couch. A couple others were asleep in their bedrooms. I woke them all up and casually let them know that OUR BUILDING WAS ON FIRE!!!

Apparently, like my kids, fire alarms (as well as firefighters banging on the door, in the case of my friends) were not enough to rouse them from their slumber.

You know, sometimes I'm glad to be a light sleeper.

UPDATE (8:45pm) - Oh, by the way, all those years ago the firefighters extinguished the flames before our apartment was really effected (we did lose electricity for a couple days and there was the faint smell of smoke for a while, but nothing worse than that - the people on the other side of the building weren't so lucky). As for the alarm that woke my wife and I up last night.... I don't know. I checked every room in the house - no fire, no smoke. We thought perhaps the battery just needed to be changed, so I put in new ones. The alarm went off again this morning while I was making breakfast, so it wasn't the batteries. It's a mystery.

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