Sunday, January 10, 2016

An Alarming Christmas

Halstead Apartments (my home from August to January)
December 25, 5:00 a.m.  The fire alarm goes off.  I wake, leap out of bed. I'm a burn survivor so I don't take fire alarms lightly.  In the hall, I hear voices, footsteps.  I grab my clothes and, for some unknown reason, rush into the bathroom to brush my hair.  I open the door, then run back to get the cat.  I can't leave him here.  He's under the bed so I grab his tail, drag him out and drop him into his carrier.
5:05.  I step into the hall, stop a young man and ask if he will help me with the carrier.  The cat weighs ll pounds, the carrier probably another pound.  The man stares right through me.  Is this a dream?  Is he a zombie?  An alien?  I ask again.  He walks on by without a glance.  Later I hear him speaking in a language I don't recognize, but surely he could have shaken his head and said, "No English."  I find someone else to help me, and we head down three floors and into a garden.  It's unseasonably warm and it's not raining so no one is uncomfortable out here, but we all stare at the building, trying to figure out where the fire is.
5:20.  The fire department arrives.  The alarm continues to shriek as we watch and wait.
5:50.  Finally someone goes over to the office to check.  There's no fire but they can't seem to turn off the alarm.  We all troop upstairs and find the third floor hallway full of water.  My house flooded in Houston's Great Memorial Day Flood.  Is this another holiday flood event?  The water is creeping toward my doorway.  The man who carried my cat upstairs suggests I put towels against the door.  I do.
6:00.  The alarm is still going strong but I can sleep through anything, so I go back to bed.
7:00.  I wake.  The alarm is off but a man is standing in my apartment.  "Don't be frightened," he says politely.  "I'm from maintenance.  Just checking to see if you have any water in here. I knocked, but you didn't answer."  My heart is still pounding but I follow him into the living room and find the towels wet but no water in the apartment.  Later I learn that a pipe broke in the ceiling above our floor, several apartments were flooded and the occupants were put up in a hotel.  What a Christmas for them!

December 26, 3:00 a.m. The alarm goes off again.  This time people gather in the attached garage.  No one seems frightened.  I leave the cat in my bedroom, cringing.  "If there really was a fire," someone said, "no one would pay attention."  Everyone wanders  back inside.  Again, I go back to sleep.  I get an email later saying apartments on the first and second floors were flooded.  I am so sorry.
9:30 a.m.  I leave to run errands.
Noon.  As I drive back into the garage, the alarm sounds again.  Ho hum.
No more alarms for the rest of the weekend, but this is a holiday I'm sure no one will forget.



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