Firemen to the Rescue

About half an hour ago, I got a phone call. It was my landlord (female), asking if I could hear the alarm.

“What alarm?” I asked. I’d been in my one air-condiitoned room, as close to the air conditioner as possible.

Well, she explained, the burglar alarm had gone off, for obscure reasons perhaps connected to a blackout this afternoon, and there was a fireman in the house trying to fix it. (The local fire squad, it would seem, is of the friendly getting-cats-down-from trees sort, willing to perform good deeds over and above the dousing of fires.) He might need to come up to my third-floor garret apartment to deactivate the alarm. Sure enough, he did.

It was fairly obvious, once I stepped into the sauna that was the rest of my apartment, that there was an alarm going off somewhere on the outside of the house. The fireman, my landlord (male), and I trooped over to the nearest window. The fireman stuck his head out the window, pointed to the alarm somewhere on the side of the (sloped) roof a few feet away, and promptly stuck the rest of himself out the window so he could get closer.

My landlord (male) and I didn’t particularly want to watch, mostly out of a sense that if South Orange’s finest were to fall to his death while bracing his feet against the gutter and leaning on his back on the room trying to disconnect the alarm, it would be traumatic enough merely hearing the fall, without also seeing his fatal plunge as well. So we made (comparatively) small talk. My landlord (male), seeing my Pinky and the Brain print, commented that it must have been on in the 1990s, because the theme song contains the phrase, “Bill Clinton plays the sax.” This led him to start talking about the time he met Clinton. Clinton talked to him about The Mayor of Casterbridge, with great passion, for several minutes. Then Clinton turned to a nearby woman and started talking to her about radish farming with equally intense interest.

At about this point, the alarm stopped and the fireman made his way back inside, none the worse for wear. I think we were more relieved than he was.

So why, I wanted to know, was there an alarm on the outside of the house, on the third floor roof? Apparently, the original owners had been quite the collectors. They regularly went on safari and had filled the house with stuffed bears, seashells, and other exotic treasures. They had needed an alarm system to protect the house when they went off to their other house … on St. Thomas. This explanation didn’t really answer my question, unless one assumes that collector-explorers are the sort of eccentrics who would stick an alarm bell and sensor on the outside of a house roof. Perhaps they were afraid that thieves would come along and stick a twenty-five foot ladder up on the side of the house and come in through a trap door from the crawl space above the attic. Perhaps it was the sort of derring-do they themselves would have gone in for, were they cat burglars instead of explorers. Perhaps they were cat burglars, too, or maybe even just cat burglars who had stolen all their stuffed bears and seashells.

In any event, my landlords (male and female) thought they had thoroughly deactivated and disconnected the alarm system when they moved in almost a decade ago. It would appear that they had not. I’m glad of it, because it sure livened up what had been a pretty uneventful evening.