May 03, 2006

The loud, blaring noise goes on and on and on and on. It fails to respect that you're trying to think. Or talk on the phone. Or reading your favorite blog on company time. It's incessant. It's painful.

My singing in the office? Well, yes, that fits, but I really meant the fire alarms.

And the loud blaring isn't the worst part. The worst part is the suddenness of when they begin. There's a bright flash of emergency light, and then before your mind has time to process the question, "Am I having a seizure?" the first horn of alarm goes on. And off. And on. And off. And on. And off....

At the noise begins, the body jumps a mile with fear. Lesser people with unfortunate digestive timing will shit themselves a bit before recovering their composure.

A crowd of building evacuees during a fire drill last October.

It's an odd and dangerous twist to the boy who cries wolf story. There's no consistency. We might go a couple of months without the alarm, and then it might go off two days in a week. Or three times in one day. I wish I was exaggerating. The end result is that there's rarely an orderly evacuation when the alarm goes off any more. If it doesn't stop after several minutes, people will gradually filter out of the building as their tolerance for the noise dissipates. But in a real fire, we can only hope there's still an escape route by the time the workers smell the smoke.

Earlier this week, we received this message from Vicky, the woman who manages our office building. Lest you think I'm picking on her, I will say that Vicky is probably better at her job than any of the rest of us are at our respective jobs (not that the rest of us set the bar all that high). I'm pretty sure her nightmares are about running out of copier toner and her pleasant dreams include getting to post a new hazardous material data sheet about the new brand of liquid paper that we're ordering. Anyway, the message we received was as follows:

From: Vicky Gehbauer Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 2:13 PM To: BR Everyone Subject: FW: fire alarm testing He says the alarms won't sound, we'll see.... ----------------------- From: Norman {last name, phone numbers, and email addresses deleted by Ben} Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:55 PM To: Greetings from the Management Office! I hope the West Concourse Restrooms and the South Parking lot are being enjoyed by most everyone. Many thanks to Buquet & Leblanc for their hard work, resulting in much needed and appreciated improvements to BCBC. And for those who are concerned, discussions and plans about the North Parking Lot are heating up. Please inform your employees about the following events occurring within the next 2 days: 1. On Wednesday, May 3, from 130pm - 230pm, we will be testing the fire alarms in the New Concourse. I have been advised that the alarms in this area will NOT affect the Solo Building or the Equifax / Convergys / OPH Building. However, when activated, the alarms will audibilize in the Concourse (old and new) and in all tenant spaces which connect / open directly into the Concourse. The alarms will be activated three times, each lasting between 15 - 30 seconds. During this time, please disregard the alarms you may hear. 2. On Thursday, May 4, from 900am - 1000am, the State Fire Marshal will be testing our fire alarms in the same area. The same areas will be affected in the same manner as the day before. Please disregard the alarms you may hear during this time, as well. We hope this advance notice helps ease the pain of the intrusion of the alarms, but know that we are very sensitive to minimizing their interference to your operations and we truly appreciate your company’s patience. Please let me know if you have any questions about this matter. Thank you. Norm {lastname} Facility Manager, Bon Carre' Business Center

To which I replied,

Tell ol’ Norman that we're pretty damn sure that the fire alarms work just fine back here.

All I can say is that I hope ol' Norman has a good sense of humor, because Vicky gave it a chuckle, and forwarded my message to him. And copied me. He didn't bother to reply.

And I haven't really gotten my due enjoyment out of the new South Parking lot, and I didn't even know about the new West restrooms. I know where I'm going for my next dump! (Assuming the coffee leaves my troubled innards enough time to walk that far.)

But seriously, those alarms are loud.