Have you ever noticed how unaffected we are by alarms these days? How many times do you hear a car alarm go off and actually call the police because someone’s car is being stolen? In most cases someone hit “Panic” instead of “Unlock” on their key (guilty of that), or a stray ball hit the car. In any case, the noise brings feelings of “Dear god when is it going to stop?” instead of “I hope that person’s car is OK.” It happens at the store too — those alarms at the door that are supposed to guard against shoplifters just make a lot of unneccessary noise. I don’t know how many times I’ve set them off — and who knows how — and I’m just ushered through, no bag check or anything. When I was at the Vatican with my family recently we had to wait in a long metal detector line to get into St. Peter’s Cathedral. My mom set the alarm off and they sent her through without a check, and I didn’t even have my bag X-rayed. What was the point of that queue?
I bring all this up because I was in Sainsbury’s today, looking for the best bunch of celery to get, when an extraordinarily loud alarm went off, much louder than the usual “Someone may or may not be shoplifting, but who wants to check?” buzzer. I almost took it as a sign from the universe that my attempts to eat healthy were crazy — I don’t even really like celery! But I put the celery in my cart, and as I was about to grab carrots, the alarm went off again. (Cue Job Bluth’s “Come onnnn!”) This time the beeping was followed by, “Evacuate the building immediately!” over the loudspeaker. This wasn’t something I heard often — or ever — at the grocery store, and almost panicked, but instead I did a quick “Is the building on fire because someone at the cafe microwaved something in an aluminium wrapper?” look around. No one was running for the door and everyone was going about their shopping like nothing had happened. Finally I heard a cashier say, “It’s just a test.” (I probably arrived at the store just after the “Don’t be alarmed by the alarm that’s about to sound, it’s a test” announcement.) It was a relief, but it made me think about how desensitized we are to alarms now. They said to evacuate the building and I just stood there, looking for the bag of carrots with the latest expiration date. What if the building really was on fire?
I guess the closet I’ve ever come to “This is not a drill” was in high school when the biology class conducted a lab in which they burned Cheetos to determine their calories… or something like that, it’s been awhile since I’ve taken bio. All I remember is that it smoked out the school and we all had to go stand outside in the rain while the firemen came and did an inspection while asking the same thing as the rest of us — “Cheetos? Really?” The bio teacher has been teaching there for 40 years, but the Cheeto incident is something he’ll always be known for.
And on a completely unrelated note, today wasn’t a bad day because I saw a pug. (Remember?) He was wandering down Finchley Road without a leash, which is common here, then wandered right into an Oxfam shop like it was no big deal and he just wanted some vintage trousers. It was almost as good as the random tied-together wandering pugs of Portobello Road. (How did I not blog about this? It was back in October last year. Here is a poor quality picture I took. They were too fast for me):