Vs. Alarms

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Behavior
Tags: , , , , , ,
A Wheelock MT-24-LSM electronic fire alarm hor...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s the deal.  Last night, when I arrived at my gym, the fire alarm was going off.  A flashing light and a high-pierced shriek and when I looked inside…people were just plodding along on their treadmills  – business as usual.  As I stood outside, wondering what to do, a guy walked past me and into the building from whence said fire alarm was blaring and proceeded to start his workout.  I understand.  It certainly didn’t look like the building was on fire.  But I just couldn’t stand the thought of my obituary reading, “Died when he ignored a fire alarm and voluntarily entered the building…”

It’s as if everyone in the gym were hitting a giant snooze button on this fire alarm and rolling over for a few more reps.  And it’s even worse with car alarms.  Whenever I hear a car alarm going off, I spring into action and do absolutely nothing.  My only response to a car alarm is to think to myself, “When is that person going to turn their car alarm off?”  Of course, the alarm is designed to alert us of a problem – but they simply don’t work.

As a society, we’ve become jaded to alarms.  And I do think the alarm clock is partially to blame.  If we can roll over and switch off the alarm that blasts us awake every morning, why should we take particular notice of the other alarms that bother us throughout the day?  Alarms are simply no longer alarming.

The other problem is that humans pretty much expect things to go as they’ve gone in the past.  In the past, when I go to the gym, it is not on fire.  Therefore, the gym is probably not on fire this time.  And it wasn’t.  The culprit was an over-cooked bag of microwave popcorn (I warned them, here).  But alarms serve a purpose – we need them for exactly those times when things do not go as they have in the past.  So, technically, this should be called not “Makya McBee Vs. Alarms,” but “Makya McBee Vs. Our Obliviousness to Alarms.”  (I suppose it would be easier to just go back and switch the title than to explain that here.  But my motto is, once it’s typed…it’s good enough).   

Scary clown graffiti

Image by duncan via Flickr

So, how am I going to do it?   How will I make alarms work again?  I think the key issue here is the delivery system.  The variety of annoying sounds that different alarms make…we’ve heard them all.  We’re used to them.  We need something new.  Something that will really get our attention.  Something that will make us listen.  I think we should replace the loud beeping with a ferocious growl and replace the strobe light with the holographic image of a rabid grizzly bear – now that’s a good alarm.  A giant, diseased, roaring grizzly would get people off their treadmills.  And while noises and lights aren’t particularly alarming, there are plenty of things that scare us.  A giant banner of a homicidal clown.  A pit of snakes.  Dental equipment.   You get the idea.  Or we could have our own personal alarms, an electronic signal would trigger the alarm which would show us the image of something terrifying (for me, sharks) and we would run in fear. 

Yes.  I’m going to implement this plan.  I’m going to make alarms functional once again.  I’m going to make the world a better place.  Besides, I don’t want to stand outside the gym all by myself anymore.

  1. Wes says:

    I went into a Wal-Mart and the alarms were going off. Two firetrucks even came, and firefighters came in, wearing full gear. People just kept shopping, not even looking up. I did hear a few people complain that the sound was really loud. Shouldn’t we have all gone “Hey, there could be a fire. Let’s get out of here!” Probably. But if creepy clowns came running out of the back, that store would have been empty. Well done, Makya.

  2. heathersnyder1 says:

    I have a lot of funny hotel fire alarm stories. Usually ending up in everyone getting evacuated in the middle of the night. Everyone in their P.J’s and even some not in their P.J’s. :/

  3. ted says:

    The fire alarm in our house is wired directly to the power, so it doesn’t need a battery. It has a battery as a backup, just in case the power is off when your house catches on fire. Eventually, that battery dies. Usually at about 3 in the morning. So the alarm starts beeping loudly to let you know that it needs a new battery. At 3 in the morning. Get up and disconnect it from the ceiling. It still beeps. Remove the “dead” battery. It continues beeping. It’s like a zombie alarm, and the only way to shut it up is a new 9 volt battery, which I never have because nothing uses a 9 volt battery.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Wes – Firefighters came to the gym as well and I was the only one standing outside as they did their work – people truly ignore almost all alarms. We’re doing what we can – you’re welcome.

      Heather – Watch it sister, this is a PG to PG 13 blog – keep those pajamas on.

      Ted – Kudos to your alarm, knowing full well that it’s apt to be ignored, at least it’s working it’s butt off – A for effort.

      • heathersnyder1 says:

        Seriously was not me running around with no pajamas on…ok, it was just the one time…or twice, four times but, who’s keeping score…I can explain…I’m getting help for that.

  4. I think that we should also consider making alarms sound like the old air raid sirens. That used to get people up and out of their seats, and usually hiding under desks.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Yes, and we need more desks – there was a time when hiding under your desk could solve all your problems. Atomic bomb? No problem, the desk will save you. Simpler, stupider times.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I’m a snooze button addict. Maybe if I had an alarm that shook the whole room like an earthquake simulator. Then had the bed rigged up to a catapult I wouldn’t need the snooze.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Really ups the ante on that old saying, “You snooze, you lose”…with your system it’s more like – You snooze, you get catapulted into the wall.

      • Jennifer says:

        If it didn’t get you up and going in the morning at least it would be fun to watch someone waking up that way. Then after they sail through the air you could hold up cards and judge them on their Flying Skills, Transitions, Performance, Choreography and Interpretation.

      • Makya McBee says:

        That would explain the panel of international judges that I find sitting in the corner of my bedroom every morning…

  6. zaidaisabella says:

    I concur with the clown suggestion. Everyone and their mothers’ cats’ babies are afraid of clowns. Also, while reading this, the thought of a high-pitched ringing popped up. You know, the kind that’s just a notch below bat sonar, so that human ears can bleed enough to motivate people to get the hell out of there. Not that I would particularly enjoy that, but it would be effective, aye?

    People also don’t generally tend to freak out about fires unless they smell smoke as well. Otherwise, they probably just assume its a drill. Not that I’m disagreeing with your alarm theory, but I’m just putting that out there.

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