Shattered

Every nerve is jangling. My hands are shaking. I can hardly hear for the roar in my ears. I’m surprised there’s not blood leaking out of both them and my nose. Oh, and did I mention that I’m at work?


It didn’t start out this way, but then life happened. My life. It’s my morning to work, and I was the first to arrive at the building. The staff’s away at a planning retreat for two days, so I’m here alone until volunteers come in a little later in the morning.

First off, coffee in one hand and keys in the other, I unlocked the front door at work and headed toward the alarm console. The steady and insistent warning beep echoed in the foyer. I keyed in my code.

Nothing happened. I keyed it in again, and again. It flashed a notice saying the foyer motion detector had been set off. No kidding…I was standing there. I tried my code again. Nothing.

Nothing isn’t exactly the right word to use, because actually everything happened. Sirens both fast and slow, along with screeching trills, detonated around me. Frantically, I punched in my code again. I punched another number similar to my code, thinking perhaps I’d gotten it mixed up.

It’s very hard to think when you have raw, painful sound assaulting you from every angle. Plus, I only work a half day a week, and much of the time the pastor or another staff member is already here when I arrive. I don’t have to disarm the thing very often, and it doesn’t stay fresh in my memory.

I called the security company’s 800 number and screamed into the phone, “I set the alarm off and I can’t get it to quit!” The girl put me on hold, then came back and asked how long ago the alarm was set off. I couldn’t think. I blurted out, “it’s going off right now!”

“I know,” the girl says, “but how long ago did you set it off?”

Oh. Gotcha. It had been two or three minutes, and the police had been called. She put me on hold and called them so they’d not dispatch an officer. She came back on and said I should contact the pastor or a staff member.

“They’re all away at a planning retreat! I am the only staff member here!” I wailed. Said she’d put in a call to the installer if my code wasn’t working, that there was nothing else they could do.

I called the installer on the second line. He told me to put in my code and press 1. I asked him to hold, unceremoniously clunked the receiver down on the desk (not that he’d even hear that little faux pas over the roar of the sirens), and went back out to the console to try again.

No go! This happened a couple of times, him patiently telling me what to do and my attempting it. Just then, the caterer who rents our kitchen showed up. He tried his code to calm the alarm’s screeching. Nothing was working! The installer said he’d come out and see if he could help, advising us to go outside and wait in front so we’d not set off any more of the detectors.

By this point, the outside alarm kicked in. It’s comprised of more shrieks and whistles, but is further augmented by a recorded human voice warning that the police have been called and you should haul your sorry butt out of there quickly, began blaring. Something like that, anyway.

Mark the caterer and I sat outside and waited, making smalltalk over the loud and obnoxious voice of the man telling us we should leave. Believe me, I wanted to leave!

Installer Tom rode in on his white stallion (aka white service van) and tried again to key the code I’d told him. He tried the alternate I thought might be the code. He asked Mark for his code and tried that.

Nothing was working! By now, the whole northeast part of town was wide awake, like it or not. Mark called his wife on his cellphone and asked her for the code. He keyed something in again. The alarm fell silent.

Insert sound of birdsong and the hum of florescent lights.

I was keying in the wrong code, one stinkin’ number off. Ditto for Mark. There’s something about that alarm coursing through your shattered psyche that just makes your brain turn to mush.

Tom was the hero. He tried the consecutive numbers before and after what I’d been trying, and found the right combination. As Popeye would say, “how embaraskin”. He showed me the settings two or three times, just to make sure I got it. I did right then, as he showed me, but as I sit here, my confidence is wavering.

Oh, and I have to work again tomorrow.

8 thoughts on “Shattered

  1. It was a cold and windy day as myself and an elderly lady waited for the head lector to show
    up for our lector training.
    Outside of St.Sylvester Catholic church in
    Navarre Fl,we were kinda chilly and I had already given the lady my jacket,when she tried a side door to see if perhaps it was already open.
    Well it was open(accidentally left that way)
    and boy did all those alarms you described
    go off at once!
    It seemed the poor woman thought she had committed a criminal act!
    Well you can imagine the rest pretty accurately I guess.It all worked out and I am in my second year of reading God’s word before the whole congregation at Mass.
    What an amazing gift from God that He would entrust that task to me!
    I hope to have my own key to the church soon and I have been worried that what happened to you might happen to me.
    Neat,You have already helped me through it if that does occur.
    Sorry if I rambled too much.
    May God’s peace and love be with you
    and your’s always!
    Your Brother in Fl,
    Carl

  2. Having heard that church alarm, I bet you will NEVER forget your code, Carl! 🙂

    Friday was uneventful, with nary a beep. Whew!

  3. My oh My!!!! Now if we could get something like that installed to wake me up during the service, now THAT would be great! 🙂

  4. Uhmmmth years ago while working my way through school I worked nights as a security guard. First night on the job I made my rounds and checked every door and window to be certain they were secured. When I got back to the office after the first round I was met by the buildings owner, 5 police squads and my boss. Seems that by rattling the doors I had set off a grand total of 256 silent alarms! Every light on the control panel was lit up and they were standing there watching me on camera as I went from door to door! They had a good laugh and then never let me live it down. No loud sirens but their laughter was enough to curdle my brain :~)

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