No cause for alarm

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good emergency evacuation.

Well, possibly there are a few things – chocolate is perhaps slightly more enjoyable, and a nice glass of wine or a good pastry also ranks pretty highly. But emergency evacuations are certainly up there on the list.

A school I used to work in did fire drills on a fortnightly basis. Then, after yet another high school shooting in America, they decided to institute practice lockdowns as well. The only difference between the evacuation and lockdown alarms was that the latter was perhaps a decibel higher. We could never keep straight which was which, and each time we heard a siren, would be unsure whether to take cover under a desk or go and congregate in the middle of the oval. Often the teachers would have quite lengthy debates in the corridors about what action to take, while the students sat in the classrooms listening to their iPods or getting a head-start on their homework, and meanwhile, the simulated crisis passed.  I recall those days as a golden age.

"Micky Mouse" by Toby Oxborrow. Available at This image is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

“Micky Mouse” by Toby Oxborrow. Available at This image is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

I think of this today at work when the fire alarm goes off and we’re forced to evacuate. We stand in the street some fifty metres away, explaining to irate patrons that we’re sorry, but they can’t go into the library right now.

“Why?”, an elderly Japanese gentleman mimes. No-one around speaks Japanese, so my colleague decides to utilise her interpretive dance skills, flickering and darting her arms around in a manner intended to represent fire.

The gentleman looks alarmed. We realise retrospectively it looks more like a bomb exploding.

She amends her gestures to make them more vigorous and flame-like, adding bizarre crackling noises and periodically mopping her brow for extra effect.

After several minutes the gentleman nods in understanding, accepting that he can’t go into the library because there is a disco.


About bakersdaughterwrites

What to say? I’m a 30-something year old woman from Sydney notorious for changing her mind. I have a cat named Seraphina Nightingale, whic
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2 Responses to No cause for alarm

  1. I read today about the latest shooting in America, this time at a community college in Oregon, with nine people killed. I recalled the light-hearted comments I’d made in this post about lockdowns and “yet another high school shooting” and wondered if it was now in bad taste, if I should take it down and repost it in a few months time. Then I realised that a) only about 10 people are likely to read it, most of whom know me so are unlikely to get upset; and b) – and I say this without any flippancy – chances are there’ll be another one in a few months anyway. I don’t tend to write about politics or current events because there’s nothing more tedious or unconvincing than grandstanding, but you know, the gun control situation in the US is ridiculous – not just tragic, but utterly, utterly absurd and farcical because there is such an obvious solution. I understand that, contrary to the popular impression of the US, the vast majority of Americans actually want tougher gun control laws and it’s largely the gun lobbies that are stymieing reform. I can only empathise with how heartbreakingly frustrating this must be. An American friend shared this satirical article on Facebook today, commenting that he would “post this, like, every 3 months until America gets its head out of its ass”. I think this pretty much sums it up:

    • Interesting Onion article. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Swiss ‘army’ is composed of every adult citizen, each one of whom is required by law to keep a gun in the house in the interests of potential national defence, so, from their example, it doesn’t really seem to be about availability as much as mind set.

      My father owns a clay pigeon shoot and I grew up around shot-guns, so to me a gun has always been something banally everyday, rather than glamorous or fearful. I think that every child, particularly every teenager, should be taught to shoot and to see guns as an interesting sport rather than to project onto it a way of transcending their own feelings of worthlessness or powerlessness. American films, in particular, have a lot to answer for.

      That being said, my understanding of the gun laws in America is that anyone can go into a shop and buy one as if it were a tin of beans, which is frankly ridiculous. In England, even the gun cartridges can be traced back to you.

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