Sunday, August 16, 2009

Overnight Excitement

(Austin, TX) - It seemed like a dream at first, an annoying one at that. A bloodless female voice was awakening me from a deep sleep. Distant and dissonant, it was commanding me to leave the building. Then the clanging started. I lay there for a long, disoriented moment assessing my options. Ignore the unwelcome disturbance or pay attention? As I gathered my wits, I saw my wife in motion. She had readily identified what was happening: the hotel fire alarm had been activated.
Interestingly, she had identified the nearest exit when we got into the room. She's just responsible like that. So, in our groggy, REM-interrupted states, we slightly staggered as we made a plan and headed for the stairwell and the safety of the street eleven floors below.
A steady stream of sleepy but compliant hotel guests filed down the stairs in an orderly fashion. It was not quite 5:00 a.m., so what we saw might best be described as an anti-fashion show. Discreetly looking around, it was easy to discern what people's priorities are at a moment like this. It seems your brain screams "must have pants!" and after that, everybody goes off in a different philosophical direction.
My wife and I slipped on some handy casual clothes then grabbed wallets, room keys, iPhones and not much else. Among our fellow evacuees, shorts, tee shirts and flip-flops seemed to be in abundance. Once we reached the street, there wasn't a lot of excitement. There was just one fire truck there to save us from whatever potential peril had dislodged us from our slumber.
Once the "all clear" was issued, my wife and I hung around outside for a while. The cattle call in the elevator lobby was somehow less appealing than the march down the stairs had been. Of course, thirty minutes earlier we had a sense of purpose and urgency. Now, we just needed to try to get back to sleep.
The return to the room was kind of surreal. In a room close to ours, we could hear a man loudly losing the contents of his stomach. Then, as we arrived at our door we saw a hotel security guard dutifully sliding bills under guests' doors. Given his demeanor, it's easy to assume he had not left the building at all. Stay classy, Austin.

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