So, for the past three days a car alarm has been going off, fairly regularly, outside the library where I’ve been writing. The library is across the street from the court house and my seat on the second floor offers me an excellent vantage point of the car in question. Now, not every time , but most someone has been standing next to or relatively close to the car when the alarm goes off. Practically every time the alarm goes off there are other people on the street nearby. A passerby on the sidewalk, someone across the street, but people in fairly close proximity in general. And no one responds. No one questions the people around the car, even just to see if they need help. No one even takes notice. I honestly don’t know how many people in the surrounding buildings even acknowledge the alarm they must surely hear. Or how many have become annoyed over the last few days from repeatedly hearing it, but never investigating.
What’s the point of those little “panic” buttons on our keys now-a-days if no one will come to see why the alarm is going off? Ever hear one in a parking garage? Ever respond? Yeah, me neither. What’s the point of the alarm if no one is going to even check to see if your car is being stolen? Lower insurance rates? Yeah, right.
It reminded me of a similar experience of my own several years back now. I was working as a manager of a bookstore while getting my undergrad degree. One day the fire alarm went off, quickly scrambling me from my office in back – admittedly, where my employees thought I spent most of my time – and out onto the salesfloor. Where, to my surprise, I found every one standing around, shopping, shelving books, and completely non-plussed by the alarm.
Now, I immediately thought of three things: 1) It’s a fire alarm, 2) We’re in a bookstore, and 3) It’s a FIRE alarm!
I quickly rallied my employees and had them herding everyone towards the exits. MOOO. I made my way to a reading section where I could see a few people sitting in the comfy chairs reading. As I approached the small group, one man looked up at me, scowling, and said, “WOULD YOU MIND TURNING THAT THING DOWN?!?!?!” I was completely taken aback. Was he serious? What I wanted to say was, “DUDE! It’s a fire alarm!” What I said was, “SIR, it’s a fire alarm, and,” looking around at my surroundings, “you’re sitting in a box of kindling!” That got him up and out of the store. Not sure, not that I care, if he ever came back, actually.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever slept through your alarm in the morning? Yeah, me too.
I think we are seriously becoming desensitized to alarms in our society.
Sirens? We go about our business. If the Responders are lucky, folks move over for them at least. Train whistles? If you live near one, you know you barely hear it anymore. Cell phones, even. We’ve got some pretty crazy ring tones to get our attention now.
It just seems odd to me that the things we invented to get our attention don’t anymore, or can’t.
You know what does, though? Silence. Every time. It’s deafening it’s so loud sometimes. Completely grabs your attention when, suddenly, everything is quiet. Especially in places where you’d least expect it. You know what I mean, don’t you?
“You hear that?”