We don't use our alarm system. It isn't monitored, and in fact it took us four months to beat the system into enough submission that a chime would not sound each and every time someone opened a door, or window. The chime itself was mild enough, but at three in the morning, when my nineteen-year-old son would come and go, as is the realm of having college students living at home, it was less "mild, rather pleasant" and more "soon I will lose my entire mind to sleep deprivation". We had to dig through five different manuals just to find the existing master code, change the master code, and shut that thing up. The blessed silence that ensued was bliss.
I think it lulled me into a false sense of security. I had forgotten that the alarm system was actually my enemy, second only to that freaking carbon monoxide detector that commenced beeping every minute, in the depths of a box, which took me a full day to find, and then I had to drown it in the pool to get it to stop. Twice, since it came back to life after it dried out the first time. Blasted thing.
Anyway, we do take our smoke detecting seriously, and when the system began chirping, quite loudly, every single minute, we made great haste in dragging out the ladder and replacing the 9 Volt battery in what appeared to be the chirping culprit. This mysteriously caused every detector in the house to begin chirping in turn and we found something about our home: We had no earthly idea where the detectors are here. My husband and I would station ourselves at different points in the house, waiting for the chirp, and then trying to hunt the darned thing down. You'd think that would be an easy task but it's a very large house, with peculiar acoustics and one of the smoke detectors turned out to be in closet. So that took over an hour, and required a quick dash to the store to secure more 9 Volts.
When we were done replacing every battery in the house, the system decided it was "Not Ready" and continued to emit a piercing chirp every minute. Try this for an hour and you will find that it wears on the nerves. As my husband was replacing the ladder in the garage, I stood before the above panel and made a mistake of ear-splitting proportions. I read the buttons, and pressed the corresponding key. One said, "Off", the other "chime". I thought perhaps "chime" actually meant "chirp". I was very wrong, and was soon to live in a world of regret. Now if you study that picture you will see what I didn't, there's a nice little line connecting the off and the chime button. The line helpfully proclaims "Panic".
Wow. How entirely apropos. I didn't press them together, even I'm not that foolish, but I must have pressed them in close enough proximity that, indeed, it was time to panic. And pray for deafness, because, holy hell, what a noise.
Normally I'm good in an emergency. If you are in the mood to start spurting blood mysteriously, I'm actually a good pick to do that around because I remain calm in the moment. I wouldn't recommend the spurting, but I tend to rise to the occasion, and then have a massive nervous breakdown afterward. This evidently applies only when it is someone elses problem. If I caused it? It turns out that I morph into a cartoon character with a head as level as Daffy Duck, complete with spluttering.
The sound was actually beyond description. Sincerely, if someone broke in to our home in the middle of the night, I would much rather they steal every single one of our possessions, our cars, every jar of food and the light bulbs too, rather than hear that sound. I desperately hope that is not the sound the fire alarm makes or we're all going to perish in our beds as a preemptive measure rather than get up to investigate that sound. It is the sound that howling evil must make at the edge of the endless abyss. When and if the world ever gets sucked into a void in the universe, the sound beforehand will likely sound a great deal like that. Imagine the sound of every toddler throughout the course of time, shrieking as one, in the midst of tantrum of legendary proportions and you will have grasped about half the horror of that particular sound.
It was, to sum up, really and truly an awful sound, and its source was exactly four feet above my head. I managed not to simply drop dead as a means of escape. As my husband came flinging, wild-eyed, through the door, I began to ineffectually beat helplessly on the control panel, which if it is even humanly possible, made the sound worse. At which point I commenced with the Daffy Ducking by putting both hands firmly over my ears and whirling like a dervish in a tight, panicked circle while simultaneously my knees performed the Charleston.
"What made that happen?!?" My husband said, or rather, bellowed. For all I know he actually said, "Is that the two minute warning of imminent destruction?" because all I could see was his eyes bugging out of his head, and some wild gesticulating in the general direction of...me.
I turned and sprinted with great haste to the fuse box outside where it was at least half as horrible in terms of sound. I briefly considered never returning. Perhaps I could just keep running? Join the circus, pursue the life of a vagabond, sell my organs on some dubious market to make some dosh and live under an assumed name. Instead I turned off power to the entire house in less than two seconds.
It did absolutely nothing. My husband, hot on my heels (and presumably also considering life on the lam) stared wildly around.
"What the hell do we do?" He yodeled.
"I don't know!" I screamed back helpfully. "Move?"
We both turned and ran swiftly back into the house, my husband pausing to grab what appeared to be the manual for the alarm system as he sprinted through the butler's pantry.
Stopped short in the middle of the kitchen, trying to figure out what to do, I did the only sensible thing I could come up with: I ran into the closet-style pantry and closed the door after me. No, I don't know why. Struck me as the right move at the time. It was somewhat quieter in there but as I couldn't live amongst the oatmeal and pasta (although this was also a tempting option) I emerged and bizarrely did my dervish/Charleston/Duck routine once more before running towards my husband. So that he would not die alone.
In my haste I kicked the near life out of my cat, who was acting as if he was in the midst of being electrocuted. I'm sure he has permanent damage to his neurological system, but considering his everyday personality, I'm not sure we'll notice a difference. I stared in horror at him before taking another step towards my husband when peace and quiet crashed down on us all, and the sound of a billion toddlers cut off. It was like Nirvana.
My husband stuck his head around the corner, and I swear that one of his eyes appeared to be much larger than the other, and he had a decidedly mad scientist expression on his face.
"What happened?" He was clutching the manual to his chest, out of breath.
"I happened, it was me." I said, walking past him and lying down on the living room floor in the shape of a capital X. "I did it, I was trying to make it stop tweeting. Oh God, tweeting is so much better than that."
"That sound is more likely to kill us than save our lives. I hope it never has reason to go off."
"Yes, we'd be doomed, entirely." My heart was hammering in my chest.
"Oh happy dagger!" my husband yelled, and we both got an adrenaline induced case of the giggles.
"Thank you so much, honey. I'm so sorry. I promise I will never touch anything in this house again. I can't believe you didn't just hot-wire the car and leave me to my fate."
"I had the keys in my pocket, actually. From now on we need a clearly mapped out exit strategy, keep the passports in the glove box."
"Flee the jurisdiction and have Kimberly list the house as we make our escape." I supplied.
This was when I realized that in the four minutes that the worst sound in the history of hearing had been going on, I hadn't seen my son. I removed myself from the living room floor, miraculously without even the use of a person-sized spatula, long enough to shout down into the basement:
"Are you alive down there?"
"Yes," came a rather calm reply, "I'm hiding."
"Wise lad." I called back, and returned gratefully to the floor, this time as a Y.
It was an hour later, as I was lying limply on the couch, waiting to stop feeling as if I needed to jump directly out of my skin at a moment's notice, when I discovered via The Colbert Report on Tivo that if only I was an Austrian child, I likely could have handled that terrible fright with aplomb.
I've never seen the Austrian Krampus before, and if you've never seen The Colbert Report, please be aware that he's a comedian, doing a parody of a Conservative talk show host as a means of satire. At the end of his report, there is a bit that explains what the Krampus is. I've seen it before, normally it's an amusing looking devil-cartoon, who travels with St. Nick, and scares bad children. The Austrian version turns out to be, shall we say, a bit hardcore. Austrian children are apparently made of tough stuff.
As a full grown woman if one of these characters in costume broke into my house, I'd likely scream my fool head off in fright, and make great speed towards anywhere but where it was.
I'd also hit the pound and asterick keys in combination, because I have a feeling it is the music of his soul. That's got to be what that sound is, it's not a "Hit this Panic Alert to bring aid to your side" but rather, "When you are panicking, this is the sound your central nervous system makes."
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude - Hallmark & Krampus|