You and I have plans later tonight (as soon as I close up the bookstore, I’m meeting you to watch bad movies and eat leftover movie popcorn). About 10 p.m., you haven’t heard from me, so you call my cell phone. The conversation essentially goes something like this:
You: “How you doing?”
Me: “Hey, can I call you back? I’m just leaving the store; we had a little incident.”
You: “What happened?”
Me: “Oh, the police and the fire department just left.”
Now, since you are the person who knows me better than anyone else in the whole world, what do you do?
A. Get in your car and speed to the store to see if I am OK.
B. Ask many questions as to whether or not I am OK and is there anything you can do.
C. Reply, “Give me a call when you’re almost here.”
Anyone? That’s right, C is the correct answer. That’s because if I wasn’t OK, you know I wouldn’t be able to answer my phone myself, so A isn’t really necessary. You also know that whatever happened isn’t going to be a simple one word answer and if I take time to explain it now, it will delay my getting to the popcorn. Because you know how I feel about food, B won’t work either. Which leaves C, because you also know me well enough to understand that somehow, “incidents” seem to follow me like a baby duck who has imprinted on an eagle.
Ok, so my third night closing as the person in charge went something like this:
9:00 We lock the doors and begin closing up.
9:30 All but one of my staff leaves.
9:35 I walk towards the front of the store to set the alarm. Before I can get near the burglar alarm, the fire alarm starts to go off. I look over at the one other employee and ask if he set the alarm off accidentally. No such luck. I smell no smoke and see no flames. I consider, briefly, arming the burglar alarm and simply heading out, but decide that since I am technically in charge, I should probably call someone.
9:36 The alarm stops.
9:37 The alarm starts again. I call 911 and explain that the alarm had gone off twice and stopped and don’t see any evidence of a fire but thought I should probably call in the alarm. While I’m on with 911, the alarm goes off again… louder and with new, more annoying sounds. The 911 operator says we should get out of the store and wait outside for the fire department.
9:38 Here’s what turned the night from mildly annoying to, depending on your point of view, hysterically funny or really annoying. I arm the burglar alarm as we go out the door. I don’t know why.
9:40 The fire department shows up- two guys wearing the bottom half of the full uniform, and one guy in shorts and a t-shirt. I love Florida. They want to go in the store to check things out. I would really rather let them in through the doors, and as two of the guys have axes and seem well-trained with them, I waste no time unlocking the door.
9:41 As I pull open the front door, I realize that while I do indeed have a security code for the alarm, I have only ever armed the damn thing. I have never learned how to disarm the alarm. I have roughly 30 seconds to figure it out.
9:41:30 Anyone want to take a guess as to what happens here? Let’s just say that the combination of fire alarm with burglar alarm, a flashing fire truck, and guys with hatchets really brings out the neighbors.
9:42 I give up on disarming the alarm and try to call the store manager. I instantly get her voice mail. Great. I run back to the breakroom to get the phone list and try to call a fellow supervisor. I get his machine. With the alarms going nuts in the background, I leave him a message to please give me a call, I have a little situation.
9:43 I go oustide and apologize profusely to the fire department and USF police for the burglar alarm, explaining that I only know how to arm the system. I can tell that at this point they have started to question whether or not I could have possibly set off the fire alarm as well. A radio call saves me, though, as they learn that alarms came through for the attached parking garage and its elevator the same time as mine.
9:44 I head back into the store and try to disarm the alarm. Fellow supervisor calls me back and walks me through disarming the alarm- over the sirens.
9:45 St. Pete’s finest show up. To recap: we now have about three police cars and a fire truck on 3rd Avenue South, and every emergency personnel wants my attention. I have to explain -to each one, at least once- the sequence of events with alarms. They ask if I am Penny, and when I say no, they tell me that she is on her way. Penny is the store manager. Fantastic.
10:00 Penny shows up, and I get to explain again what happened. I think the best part of this conversation is when I find out that Penny was at her sister’s house, and when the alarm company called, her son took the message, called his mom on her cell, and told her that “Social Security just called for you.” Penny, once she realizes that everything is OK and that she has gotten a false alarm warning from the police, is actually remarkably nice about the whole thing.
10:05 You call as we’re wrapping things up. After we hang up, you turn to your daughter and say “You know, I’ve worked at a lot of places and never had to call the police or the fire department. She’s worked there, what, a week, and she has them both out?”
Just another day in the life.