Frequent Fire Alarms

Thursday 8 December 2011

Blog IX: Frequent Fire Alarms

This morning at the ripe hour of 6:23am marked the seventh or so fire alarm here at South Clerk Street and the second early morning fire alarm. A blog on fire alarms may seem boring and stupid but here the fire alarms, along with the mice, are one of the most exciting things that the whole building gets to experience together. Every term there is a practice alarm¸ just like in the States so that people know what it sounds like and know where to go when they exit the building. I have to say in retrospect I’m very happy that we had this practice or else the first couple of real alarms would’ve scared the crap out of me because I wouldn’t have known what that terrifying screaming sound in my room was…okay that may be pushing it when the alarm goes off you do know what it is, but still. Anyway, the practice alarm was on a Friday morning and involved me running around my room like a chicken with its head chopped off because I couldn’t seem to figure out how to react. This fire drill was then dutifully followed by an actual alarm the following Saturday afternoon. That alarm was then followed by three others in the next few weeks, in fact, by the third fire alarm the mass of residence were really getting good at exiting the building, though we all still demanded to block the entire sidewalk so that Andy had to continually walk around the giant group of us and tell us to move so that a) people could get past us and b) the firemen could get into the building. In the month of October alone the SCS building had a ridiculous total of five fire alarms, and somehow every time there was someone in a towel. Which brings me to my favourite point about fire alarms: Edinburgh is a busy city (unless its 4am but I’ll get to that) and the SCS building is located on one of the busiest streets so there are always loads of people mulling about, acknowledging this wouldn’t it make sense to take a minute or so to run to your room and throw on some clothes so that you are not completely exposed to the elements and most importantly, the people? Apparently not. Having become the master fire alarm individual that I was since I was always in for every fire alarm I figured that I had it down, I wasn’t even surprised by the blaring siren when it went off in my room I would just acknowledge it and gather my things before heading for the street to wait for the fire brigade, oh how foolish I was to get so comfortable with the alarm. On the morning of Saturday 5 November at half three in the morning that screaming bell of danger alerted and aroused the entire building of a possible fire, though it was at a horrid hour and one of the scariest moments of my life I have to say this is one of my favourite memories. Ever since I was a little girl I was terrified of fires and most of all I was terrified of the fire alarm going off in the night because when you are sleeping is when you are most vulnerable, the alarm on the 5 of November made these fears a reality and actually extinguished them…to a point. When the blood curdling alarm blared throughout the building that morning and filled my room with the red light of screaming danger (there are fire alarms in every room) I mechanically arose from my bed without really knowing what I was doing, grabbed my coat, keys and phone and went into the hall to make sure that everyone else got out okay, but while in the hall I realized I had forgotten my glasses so I rushed back into my room and retrieved them before getting out of the building. The city at that time was dark and silent but the serenity of that hour was shattered by the unhappy and drunken shouts of practically every South Clerk Street resident. Since the previous night had been a Friday everyone had gone out to the clubs and since the clubs close at 3am all of those individuals had just come home and passed out in their beds before the alarm screamed them awake, so they were all in that state of still drunk but starting to sober up, the worst of both worlds. In their drunken state many of them decided to scream out their frustration and for the half hour or so that we were out on the street that morning waiting for the firemen there was a continual screech of displeasure. The funniest bit though was this one guy that was still so drunk, his breath smelled like straight vodka, that he only had a towel wrapped around his waist, so along with screaming curses into the disrupted silence he also expressed how cold he was to the entire crowd. Finally one girl gave him her coat and our RA Katie gave him her slippers (it was quite cold out). It took thirty minutes for the whole ordeal to pass before we could all finally return to our beds. Ever since that alarm I have been on my toes anticipating another one, but one hadn’t come, and so that fear was replaced by the vermin infestation, though I still had a plan laid out for what I would do if an alarm went off while I was in the shower.

Finally my anticipation for another alarm was granted this morning which I find a hoot because just last night while I was putting on my pjs I thought the last time that I had worn these specific pants was when we had the three am fire alarm and before I went to bed I consciously made sure that my glasses and phone were in the perfect position so that I could quickly grab them if there was an alarm, which they were. So when the alarm brought the building to life like a giant alarm clock, I was basically completely prepared; I had my phone, my glasses, my super warm sweater/vest mix, my slippers and my keys the only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the one thing you should always anticipate living in Edinburgh, rain. So even though I was awake and enjoying the alarm (they are a rather enjoyable event in student life here) while walking out of the building with Lindsay I noticed just before I got out the door that it was pouring down rain, within minutes my slippers and my socks were soaked through, it was like having a marsh in my shoes. But no matter we were all (Lindsay, Andy and I at least) in pretty good spirits and I managed to crack some good jokes so that Lindsay and I were giggling for most of the time, especially when Andy came over and told us that we could wait in the lobby of the building and I responded jokingly that I would rather just stay outside and suffer, we all laughed. The alarm didn’t last that long and we were all back in our rooms by 6:40 which gave me twenty minutes to sleep before my 7am alarm went off (which I set because I had planned to hike up to Arthur’s Seat and watch the sunrise but it was still pouring and there are high wind warnings so instead I just decided to sit down and write this blog). Fire alarms in Edinburgh are far more exciting than at Colorado State University because not only is everyone usually recovering from drinking but also you never know if you will have your socks and slippers hanging over your heater and a good feeling in your heart from the hearty morning wake up.