The fire alarm went off in my hotel this morning. After waiting a minute – a minute spent sniffing a bunch of times to see if I smelled any smoke – I got out of bed, found my pants and hotel key, and opened the door to my room. The housekeeper was two rooms down from me. She saw me and said, “Don’t worry – it’s nothing – should be turned off soon. You need any service?”
“Some coffee would be nice.”
She grabbed a couple coffee packs and some cups from her cart and walked over to me. As she handed me the goods, she said, “If it turns out that there is a fire, I’ll come back over and let you know.”
I thanked her, and shut my door. And the alarm continued – a deeper-than-normal screech with a bit of a thump at the end that was a couple beats-per-minute slower than something that might bubble underneath an industrial or experimental song. As I set down the coffee packets and cup over by the coffeemaker, I couldn’t help but think, “Would she?”
If there actually was a fire, would she actually come over and let me know? Or – upon discovering that the alarm’s sounding was definitely not nothing – would the instinct to bolt for the nearest exit overwhelm any thought of tapping on the door of the nice fella with bedhead who she provided with coffee? If it was the latter option, I hope that she’d at least scream loud enough while running away for me to hear it.
I opened the balcony door (a teeny balcony, extending out maybe 3 feet, but a balcony nonetheless) and looked out. It was drizzling – the opening act to a much stronger rain that would come down throughout the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I watched the soft rainfall and listened as the rain mixed in with the sound of cars running over wet asphalt, which mixed in with the continuing sound of the fire alarm, which mixed in with the increasing sound of an approaching siren from a fire truck that was heading towards the hotel’s parking lot.
Here’s the view from my balcony, taken much later in the afternoon (which – if the fact that I’m writing about it hasn’t already spoiled the ending – should let you know that I did not die in a hotel fire this morning):
Those two bushes – I would have to aim for those two bushes, wouldn’t I? One of the bushes could handle my personal effects – I’d cram my work items, the laptop, and camera into my luggage and heave it towards one of the bushes, hoping that the landing would be soft enough to not break anything. That would leave me.
I’m on the third floor. The balcony has a railing, which adds a couple more feet to the fall once I were to claim atop it (given my general lack of equilibrium, I would likely slip and fall to my death right here). Directly beneath me is a fence dividing the hotel property from the parking lot pictured above (there’s a Friendly’s in front of the hotel – I assume that’s their parking lot). The bushes are a couple feet from that fence. In other words, it’d take a hell of a jump. At least my laptop and camera would be safe!
I waited, standing halfway between the door to my room and the balcony. I couldn’t hear the housekeeper – maybe she had forgotten me, or maybe she was just ho-hummedly changing the sheets in another room – all I could hear was the rain and the industrial/experimental kickdrum fire alarm. I thought about opening the front door again to see if she was still there, or just giving up and heading downstairs to the lobby to wait things out there sans any further suspense. Instead, I just stayed standing in the middle of the room, waiting - it’s less interesting without the suspense.
This tends to happened around 3-4 times during the six months of every year that I spend on the road. Three months into this year’s travels, the current fire alarm was the third such occurrence. The alarms in the prior two incidences stopped after at-most 2 minutes. This third incident was edging towards a twentieth minute. Everyone else in the hotel had probably evacuated by now. “That’s gotta be everyone,” a wheezing hotel clerk downstairs is telling a firefighter, “I can’t imagine anyone would be stupid enough to have not taken the hint by now.”
Before that twentieth minute hit, the alarm finally stopped. Seconds later, it started again, then stopped just as quickly. It sputtered back to life a third time for a couple beats before finally going away for good. I could hear the housekeeper mutter, “oh, thank goodness”, from two rooms down.
The rain picked up. It was nearing the time for me to get ready for work. I closed the balcony door – taking one last look at those two bushes, who would continue to live their bushy lives unbothered by falling people or luggage for at least another day – and made some coffee.