Around 1 a.m., I had just gotten home from an evening out, and my friend Em called.
While we were chatting, a VERY LOUD alarm went off. INSIDE MY APT….Let me just say, I HATE loud noises. Especially ones that feel like they are shredding my eardrums. I tracked the source to a big casing on the wall above a filing cabinet. I pulled the barstool over, climbed up, and popped the casing off, but saw no battery. Then i realized it was the doorbell. So my attention went to the wall plate six inches to the left. It had a little round hole, and when i covered it with my hand, the piercing alarm dulled. I just kept my hand there for a few seconds, enjoying the respite from the piercing shrilling. There were two screws. Flathead variety. I ran to the closet and pulled out the tool drawer, but could not locate the flathead bit for my multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver. The sound. The sound. That shrilling. Still permeating all the airspace.
I did the only thing any self-respecting alarm-induced psychotic would do. Brute force was called for. I fetched my hammer and proceeded to silence the offender. My head was going to explode if I had to listen to that screaming alarm much longer. I took the claw part of the hammer and tried to pry the plate off. It was not cooperating. With frustration, and a smidgen of encroaching insanity, I just whacked the plate with the hammer. It didn’t stop, so I whacked it again. It stuttered. I was making progress. Whack! Whack! Whack!
The faceplate was cracking nicely now, but that sound. That sound. That shrill, ear-bleeding sound was still torturing me. I just started pounding on it until it finally caved in. Until the guts were beaten out of their metal wall-cave, I saw some square module, attached to wires, but no battery. How do I shut this thing off??? I knew that if i had to make a phone call to some night maintenance number and then wait for them to arrive, I would, by then, be fit for a straight-jacket. My head was already pounding. (My ears have always been sensitive to high-pitched noises. That’s why I don’t use a standard alarm clock, and have avoidance behaviors about other shrill noises. Like screaming children, bagpipes, tea kettles, and the way some women talk).
I was about to attach the hammer claw to it and pull, but pictured myself being electrocuted–fried up into a crispy critter with no one around to take me to the emergency room. (my polydactyle cat, Monkey, had opposable thumbs, as I’ve mentioned, but still can’t seem to use them to offer any help in emergencies. Or even with household chores). But that sound. That sound. I didn’t care anymore. I hooked the wires and got a grip on the rubber of the hammer handle and pulled. Nothing. My options dwindling, I allowed my amygdala to take over and behave in utter primitive stress response; what I like to call: Kill it until it is dead.
I pried and pulled and pounded until finally, finally…the shrieking alarm was dead. Silence. Blessed silence.Except for the echo of the sound in my head.
In my current situation, I didn’t know whether or not to load the cats in a carrier. Or actually remove my hard drive from the computer. After a few minutes of wandering around looking at all the things that were to burn up in the maybe-fire, and lamenting the lack of renter’s insurance, I went back outside for an update. They had found nothing. I studied the roof and facade of the building and saw no flames. Smelled no smoke. Then my neighbors began to gather on the outside stairs, looking over. I filled them in on what I knew and asked if their alarms were going off in their apartments. Yes. That’s why they were out there. They had been run out by the noise. Em said it was too bad they didn’t have hammers like I did.
Another trip inside, and back out in a few minutes, to talk to the firefighter again. He said that they had found the issue. Someone had pulled the fire alarm lever in the breezeway and broken off the handle. Normally, they would be able to reset it, but it was broken. One of my neighbors had reported to them that the guy living above her had done it. So someone was now busted for causing all this. Or at least, i hope they were busted. If not as an official police arrest, then in the mouth.
Not sure what I will tell maintenance when I call them to repair the murdered alarm in my wall. Maybe that I panicked. Maybe that I had an anxiety disorder and just had to stop the noise. Hopefully, they will be understanding and just repair the damn thing without charging me.
Now, as I write this, it strikes me that this is the second time in as many weeks that I have talked to an arriving fireman. I didn’t blog the other experience. It was minor. But, I had gone to the post office late at night, to try to mail some of my books from their 24-hour package kiosk, and while using the computer screen to weigh and send, realized they didn’t have the media mail option on the machine. I didn’t want to pay $8 to send a book, when i could spend $2. And I had two different books to send. So I decided to come back out to the post office during business hours and do it at the counter. When i canceled out of the program on the screen, the fire alarm went off. I first glanced around to see if anyone else was there, and peered down the hall, to see the flashing light next to the red alarm.
So I got out of there, just in case the Federal Government had decided to install some protective device that would slam down with metal bars and block all the doors. I get paranoid like that. Sometimes.
Outside, I realized as I pulled out of the lot, that I looked like someone leaving the scene of the crime. I didn’t want to wait for some 3 a.m. visit from detectives who wanted to know what i was doing at the post office, just before it BURNED DOWN. The last thing I needed was a Domestic Terrorism charge from the Office of Homeland Security. So, I stopped and waited, to see if i could hear firetrucks. After a few seconds, I did, so I didn’t call 911. I turned around and waited, and told the fireman what happened. I didn’t know very much, but I wanted him to know I took the time to inform them, and I wanted to officially be seen cooperating. Nothing came of it. I guess it was a false alarm too.
Now, this apartment alarm fiasco. The question remains. Why have I been involved in two false alarms?