Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Exit In An Orderly Fashion

"I guess you didn't get the email either," he said. We were in the parking garage and he was brandishing a walkie talkie in each hand, both of them burping out intermittent blasts of static. I was naked save for a beach towel, clinging to my dog's leash with one hand and clutching a record sleeve with the other. I’m not sure there could’ve been a better opening line.

I shook my head and flicked a trickle of water from my cheek.

He sighed and looked away, which is typically the reaction I get when I'm partially naked. "It's just a test. They were supposed to let everybody know but they're not the best about, you know, doing things in this building." He illustrated his point by gesturing toward the garage's roof leak which they--The Management--'fixed' by stacking a series of cones in the spaces directly below the problem. When people like me parked there anyway, the cones were replaced by increasingly larger ones until now I'm forced to get out of my car and kick the cone over before pulling forward, popping the key out of the ignition and ignoring the orange carcass mangled beneath the front tire.

I thanked him, tugged the Boxerbeast's leash and tried to step in my own wet footprints on the way back into the still-shrieking building, hoping I could scratch "Being incinerated while I'm loofah-ing my back" off my list of Things to Fear, which bumps "Going bald from malnutrition" back into the top slot.

It seems like maybe a planned test of the fire alarm would be something The Management would think to tell the residents about, especially since one of those residents might’ve been in the shower grooming her personal areas when the alarms went off, a resident who is now rocking a half-finished nether region that currently looks like an alien-carved crop circle.

Mashing the rewind button for a minute, I was--as you might have guessed from context clues--in the shower, fully lathered and quite possibly singing a number of Psychedelic Furs songs when the alarm in my apartment started screaming, the attached strobe light flashing wildly, giving my square footage the appearance of a residential dance club where there would be piles of laundry stacked beside the DJ booth.

I remember touring the building before I moved in and getting a detailed explanation about the emergency alert systems, the khaki-covered property manager speaking in fully-formed paragraphs about the differences between the alarms in the hall and the ones in each individual unit, a monotone monologue I completely ignored because I was too busy gorging myself on the complimentary Triscuits he’d neatly poured onto a paper plate in the kitchen.

Despite being unable to recall any details of that afternoon other than whole wheat goodness, when my version of "Love My Way" was interrupted by an alarm bleating above my bed--IN MY OWN APARTMENT-- I knew it was bad. I expected to race out of the bathroom, rounding the corner to find a Scooby Doo-caliber fire monster waving my tangle of interconnected extension cords or oily rag collection or some other scenario illustrated in the DON'T column of an instruction manual and cackling madly as he painted the upholstery with flames.

I put my razor on the shelf and grabbed the towel hanging over the shower door, one purchased at the kind of novelty beach shop that offers you a free hermit crab with every purchase and sells a variety of t-shirts with slogans like “I Shaved My Balls For This?" My particular terry cloth tragedy has a drawing of a pit bull on it, with the phrase Pit Bull! written in a spray paint-ish font on the wall above its square head.

Yes, I used to have actual bath towels, back when I also had a sofa that wasn't accessorized with deep scratches, before I had to purchase cleaning supplies labeled “dander control”. Pigpen has a tendency to disappear when he’s bored, which means that I’ll inevitably find him in the closet having a brief but ultimately violent relationship with whatever piece of cotton he could drag from the hamper. The casualties have included countless bath towels, two hand towels, a pillowcase, and a Killers t-shirt, proving he has lower standards than anything this side of last call.


I wrapped the pit bull around my torso and sprinted out of the shower. The living room was free of Fire Monsters and smoke, but holy shit was it loud and intolerable, like I’d invited Fran Drescher over for drinks. I shoved Pigpen’s head through his collar, clipped his leash on and--just in case it was a Towering Inferno deal--I doubled back to grab the 7” single framed and sitting on top of the fridge, the one autographed by Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck.1

We pushed through the fire doors and ran down the stairs. Halfway to the garage, I secretly hoped that if anything at this address was currently smoldering, it would be in the apartment of the chick on the top floor whose garish red curtains make it look like she’d skinned Clifford the Big Red Dog and hung his pelt from the window as a warning to other beloved children’s book characters. You know, just in case the Berenstain Bears had considered rummaging through the dumpsters.

I was panting and wiping a soap bubble off of the record sleeve when I saw the maintenance guy, who politely refrained from asking why I wasn’t wearing pants before sending me back upstairs. This type of shit isn’t supposed to happen to Real People. Until today, it only happened on sitcoms in the last century, back when the theme songs had lyrics and the mothers all had feathered hair. Unless you’re me. Then it seems perfectly acceptable. Normal, even.

The alarms continued for another hour, my already disjointed thoughts interrupted every eight minutes by more disco strobes, skull-shattering screeches, and Pigpen’s best attempts at a duet. Eventually I abandoned all efforts at Doing Things and parked myself on the balcony to thumb through US Weekly’s Best and Worst Beach Bodies. I examined my own scrawny form and imagined I’d rank somewhere between Richard Gere (Age 59) and the adjustable wooden chair visible in the same shot with that girl from The Hills who can’t figure out how to look at the camera.

I’d just finished making a list of things I’d lick off Hugh Jackman’s chest--getting as far in the alphabet as Scorpions and Stinging Nettles--when a different maintenance dude with, inexplicably, the same name stitched on his shirt rang the bell. “Everything’s done for the day,” he said. “Sorry for the inconvenience but if--god forbid it--you hear ‘nother alarm, it’s for real.”

“Great,” I told Pigpen as I locked the door, “Those curtains may not make it after all.”

1 My sister Runtie heard this story last night and she was gobsmacked by my critical thinking skills. “So, you’d just leave all the pictures of, like, OUR FAMILY to burn?”

“I’m sure Mom has copies. Or they’re on Flickr.”

“And that record or whatever is probably on eBay.”

“No way. It’s an original pressing, the one with the picture sleeve.”

“I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds like you’re never having sex again”.

“Probably not, no. But it’s signed by Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck and, even though Peter didn’t play on this single or even with the Egyptians until Globe of Frogs in ’88, it’s still Peter Fucking Buck, you know? Hello? Hello, Runtie? Are you still--shit.”

When I posed the same question to her--if you thought your building was ten seconds away from being a Pompeii-style ash pile--what would you rescue from your place, she immediately answered “Gabby (her miniature Daschund, aka The Cocktail Weiner) and Teddy.”

Teddy is the stuffed bear she’s had since her first Christmas, a tattered, threadbare lump that, at this point, has to be like nuzzling with a manila folder. With its shapeless form and eyeless face, it looks like something you see slithering out of an ocean trench in Discovery Channel documentaries. And there’s no way Peter Buck would sign it.


Daniel said...

I wonder what I would grab. . .I mean after my son.

MonsteRawr said...

I shit you not, that happened to me 4 times when I was living in the dorm. It's like someone went into Safety and Security's office and shouted, "Look alive guys, Stephanie's in the shower so you know what that means!" and all the little rent-a-cops yelled, "Fire drill" and high-fived.

Shelby said...

I found your blog from Rob's blog and I read this post.. very very funny, You're a great writer. So is it a story or did it really happen?

Anyway I liked it a lot. The bit about Clifford the dog as the curtains.. very funny and visual. Liked it a lot.I'll be back here again!..

Nice to meet you... or intermeet you..


Mike said...

What! No video?!

G.H. said...

haha! Love it. Your flipping brilliant.


Rambling Rachel said...

It takes a special person to be in building Management.

Hannah Miet said...

This world is absurd. You are hilarious.

alexis said...

Hilarious! Great blog!

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Heh, this happened to my almost brother-in-law in University. And it was winter in Nova Scotia, too.

repliderium.com said...

If they liked your towel show, you may have to put up with a few more of those "oops!" moments. I suggest a lawn chair and cooler of beer in your trunk- always at the ready!

Patrick said...

As always J-Money, I love the story! You really are a gifted writer, whether you choose to believe it or not. And I would not fuck with you sporting a "Pit Bull!" towel wrapped around you...

*Akilah Sakai* said...

Goodness, woman! For reals?

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Teddy is the stuffed bear ... a tattered, threadbare lump that, at this point, has to be like nuzzling with a manila folder. With its shapeless form and eyeless face, it looks like something you see slithering out of an ocean trench in Discovery Channel documentaries. And there’s no way Peter Buck would sign it. ...

But he might f*ck it. I know I would. Rrrrrrrr! Because your description is so vivid.

Scottsdale Girl said...

Your question made me ponder....do I need to grab my mom's ashes? I mean wouldn't they pretty much be ok? In a fire? Or not? Already ashes and all...

SassyGirl said...

That has definitely happened to me while living in residence, but that is also one of the reasons I moved out after first-year.
One time, I didn't leave the shower even though the alarm went off because most of the time it's just some drunk guy who rang the alarm for fun. Then the residence manager, a boy barely two years older than me, comes INTO THE GIRLS WASHROOM just as I'm coming out of the showers. YEAH.

emmysuh said...

I can't believe you actually went out there in your towel! I don't even know that I have a towel big enough to suitably cover me for the General Puclic's viewing pleasure.

But then again when our dorm had fire alarm tests (I'm assuming they were tests since I'm still alive), I'd just lock the door, turn out the lights and hide until everyone came back in. BITCHES AIN'T INTERRUPTNIG MY NAP TIME!

Ilana said...

Making a list of things youd’d lick off Hugh Jackman’s chest sounds like an effective use of time to me. Hilarious!

x said...

Love your writing style. Glad I found you.