On Smoke and Fire Alarms

This is something I’ve been wanting rant about for awhile.

The smoke alarms here. In Australia. Are seriously freaky.

My introduction to them came in the second week I was here. On a quiet Tuesday evening, when I was settling into my room after dinner, enjoying the silence I had gotten used to over the past few days.

Suddenly –

A loud wailing noise from the ceiling in my room.

That was when I realised they had installed a speaker up there (Seriously, why do they need intercom speakers in every single little room, as if we can’t hear it if it’s in the hall, as loud as it is?!).

Then –


I was scared – for lack of a better word – shitless.

I clamored around my room like a headless chicken for a few seconds, before grabbing my phone and passport and running out. My heart felt like it had shriveled up and was just crouching in a corner of my body, too scared to move.

The first signs of it being a false alarm occurred to me when I noticed that the people who lived above us were not rushing down like they were supposed to. They, apparently, had seen their fair share of false alarms (Unlike me).

Then, at the common room, people were murmuring about how it’s probably just another false alarm, and somebody is going to get fined for getting the fire truck down when there’s no fire.

All this time, the siren was still going on, and the voice, computerized and mechanical, was still going on about evacuating. It was deeply unsettling.

Finally, the trucks came, confirmed that there was no fire, the sirens were stopped (finally) and we returned to our rooms.

I was very much shaken, and no longer viewed the silence of the night as something comforting, but now as a suspicious, filmsy scaffolding which could give way at any time.

Just a few days ago, I was sitting in my room, doing some readings, when the intercom cackled to life again. I jumped and felt my muscles freeze up.

“Residents”, the voice began, loud, harsh and distorted. I opened my door and made to go outside to check if this was another false alarm, my heart beating wildly from the initial shock.

“This is a sound test. Test. Test.”

Then the intercom went off.

I sank into my chair and took many deep deep breaths.

Seriously. They cannot keep doing this to me. I feel like my life has already been shortened by 2 years, and I’ve only been here less than 2 months! It’s gotten so bad that I now approach the silence of each night with more apprehension than before, when I used to welcome the peace and quiet. Now it just feels like something is waiting to happen. To pounce on us in the dark.


So I’ve been trying to rationalize my thinking to help myself get over this fear.

The reason why I’m afraid is because I’m attached to life. My belongings, my existence. I am afraid of getting into a disaster which could endanger my life. I don’t want to die. And as we all know, attachment is the cause of suffering. If I could live with detachment, fully knowing that even my next breath is not in my hands, then I would not be so fearful.

Also, I need to learn how to respond, not react. Responding requires you to do just what need to be done at that moment. Reacting holds an emotional component. Because I am attached to my life, I react with emotion, and feel fear. If I’m able to cultivate detachment and simply respond as the situation calls for it, I’d simply be responding, and fear need not be involved. 

Easier said than done, I know. But at least I’ve got my game plan mapped out. Respond, not react. Be detached, and fear won’t have a place.

Take a deep breath, and live on.

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