Sound The Alarm

Feb 6, 2016

Myself and burglar alarms have never really got on. For those thinking, ‘well that’s because you’re black, stupid!’ you can leave now. It’s more because, we’ve never really had to get on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived in reasonably safe surroundings. I’ll admit those safe surroundings haven’t been completely without danger, but no situation comes to mind where a burglar alarm would’ve proved beneficial. And that continues to be the case today. In fact what those alarms have proven to be, is evidence of my stupidity/prominent forgetfulness.

Let’s start with the latter.

Recently, I moved to a new area where the house I’m living in features a burglar alarm. I was told a number of times by my Aunt who I’m living with, this is how you operate the alarm; this is the code for the alarm; this is how you know the alarm is working correctly. Within minutes that conversation was removed from memory. Anyway, it eventually got to a point where I would need to recall all those details as I was coming home late one evening. I was already in a panic stressing out over a missed train, missed curfew and several missed calls. It clicked that something wasn’t right when the door didn’t open easily. Oh okay, I’ll just use the other key. That didn’t work. Ah, I’ll put this key in the other key hole. That unlocked something. And now, I’ll just unlock the top bit with the first key. Et voilà! I was greeted by darkness, thinking that’s plausible because everyone must’ve been asleep. Then a repetitive beep shed some light on the situation. That’s quirky! I thought. Oh no… I turned my eyes to the electronic keypad on the wall next to me.

This is how I was undone.

I realised that beep was not at all quirky instead it was alarming. Alarming potentially unaware house inhabiters, well-meaning neighbours and even myself, that some heinous crime was being committed. So I ran upstairs hoping to find the sleeping members of my family wondering aimlessly trying to figure out what that sound was. What I find are empty beds. Not a soul. On the run back downstairs I notice a light flashing from the window, lighting up the whole block of houses. Such is my knowledge of burglar alarms that I had no idea it was even related to the beeping. Which by now sounded dangerous. I tried calling my Aunt to help me out, but her phone is switched off. Not believing so, I continue to waste time by calling her twice more, and twice more she doesn’t pick up. In my mind, the world is ending. I catch a glimpse of myself in the hallway mirror and I don’t even recognise the person staring back at me. Earnest prayers go up to God as does the volume, frequency and pitch of the alarm.

The intervention which follows is not divine. The lights and sounds have attracted the neighbour who is now knocking on the door. The thought that follows, is complete idiocy: Don’t open it! I don’t think that would’ve helped the, ‘I’m actually innocent’ plea. The neighbour seems cautious but friendly – maybe he’s relieved that the suspected burglar actually opened the door. He starts talking to me, but in my mind I’m just hoping he doesn’t make an unfavourable connection – ‘late evening + burglar alarm + black guy…’ He mentions my Aunt’s name at which point I decide to whip out my phone and show him how I’ve been trying to contact her and it dawns on me… that move was a stroke of genius. “I’ll leave you to it,” he says, satisfied I’m not a thief.

As I’m left alone with nothing but the horrendous noise keeping me company I easily could’ve collapsed from the surrealness or vomited from the stress of the situation. Instead divine intervention does follow in the form of a stream of consciousness suggesting I call my cousin who is not living in the house anymore. “Hey, how are you?” I ask her as if everything is just fine. “Yeah, I’m good. How are you?” At which point the details of ‘how I am’ are frantically stated. In a reassuring, calming tone I’m told to press a sequence of numbers into the keypad and as I do the panic, alarms, stress and calamity are brought to a satisfying close.

We’ll end with the former.

Some time has passed since that incident, but one thing which has remained is my indifference in setting the burglar alarm, or even looking at it. But one afternoon, I am fully aware that the hunger sensations in my stomach will only be satisfied by a trip to Tesco. Instead of trusting myself to set the alarm (which would’ve proven to have been the correct thing to do) I decide to wait until someone returns home so I can test setting the alarm. Therefore if I’ve set it incorrectly, they’ll still be at home to let other people in the house in case it all goes horribly wrong. It’s not like they’ll be locked in because of any sensors that’ll put the house in ‘lockdown’ mode after movement is detected once the alarm has been set, right? I don’t even think it was up to a minute before I heard the high-pitched beeping again.

“Just don’t set the burglar alarm when someone is in the house,” my Aunt tells me.