And then an alarm goes off in my apartment. We have two of them; one in the living room and one in the bedroom. They both shriek at a frequency that makes my skull hum.
It starts with the buzzer, and then a recorded voice announces that there is an emergency in the building and instructs me to exit and not use the elevators.
We have a cat and a dog and live on the twenty-eighth floor. Sohpia isn’t home, so this will have to be a one-man operation. I peek out into the hallway to see if there are any signs of smoke or danger. Part of me wants to find out if it’s a false alarm before I grab the animals and descend the stairs with them. I’ve heard people in the elevators complain about the frequent false alarms in the building. I watch a couple at the other end of the hall leave their apartment and head for the stairs.
Back inside, Willow is spooked by the noise and hides under my chair. Rocky’s excited because there’s commotion and I’m holding his leash.
The last time Willow was in her cat carrier was when we flew from Atlanta to San Francisco in May. It was supposed to have been a direct flight, no more than six hours in the carrier for her, but because of a sequence of airport and airline troubles, she spent more than twelve hours trapped in there. She doesn’t cooperate when I try to stuff her back into it now. The buzzer and recorded message repeat. Rocky wags.
Cat stowed in her carrier, dog on his leash, we make our way down twenty-eight floors, around and around the stairwell. I get dizzy. Rocky pauses a few times when we get about halfway down. He looks a little dizzy too. I don’t hear the alarms anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s a false alarm.
And then we’re outside in the sunlight. We round the corner and I don’t see any crowd of displaced residents or emergency vehicles. We go back into the building.
In the lobby, a group of firefighters are on their way out, laughing with one of the guys from the building’s office. A few other residents stand around, waiting for the all-clear.
“False alarm?” a woman asks.
“Always,” one of the firemen says. He laughs. The also laughs, but her laugh sounds fake.
The elevator is full for the ride back up, and my neighbors chat about the false alarm. A few of them are pet owners and admit that they left their animals behind because this sort of thing is “always” a false alarm.
We’ve been back inside for about ten minutes now. Willow’s under my desk, confused. Rocky’s already asleep. I’m glad we had a fire drill and happy that this wasn’t a real emergency.
But I’d like them to get the alarm fixed.