Earlier this evening I had fallen asleep on my couch--probably due to the fact that I had worked myself to exhaustion attempting to get three stars on every level of Angry Birds--when I was abruptly awakened by this deafening screech! The fire alarm was going off at my apartment complex. I immediately got up and looked around my apartment to see what could have possibly ignited such an awful racket! Some thoughts that went through my head were:
"Are the batteries in the smoke detector bad?"
"I hope I didn't set it off in the whole building"
"Which detector is it?"
"Geez! Make it Stop!"
I believe I even tried to rip one of smoke detectors off the ceiling before the second wave of thoughts went through my head:
"Are we having a fire drill?"
"Am I supposed to evacuate?"
"Are you freaking kidding me! It's freezing outside- ugh, where's my coat?"
"Is anyone else evacuating?"
"Do I HAVE to?"
I peeked my head out my front door to find that my neighbors seemed to have the same thoughts gaging from the confused looks on their faces. Most people started to congregate in the hallways where the elevators are. From my side of the building we have a clear view of the street and could see the fire engine pull up. Funny thing is--no one really left the complex! Why? Because we all have been conditioned to automatically ignore alarms and warning signals!
Think about it! What's the first thing you do when you hear this:
I'm guessing it's hit the snooze button! It sure isn't thinking, "Oh goodie- it's time to wake up!"
Or what about this:
You don't jump up and run to the rescue of some poor neighbor's demise. You automatically assume a cat jumped on the hood of the car or something and grow increasingly irritated the longer the noise prevails!
It's like the story my dad used to tell me about the boy who cried wolf. With so many false alarms in our lives, we've been conditioned to ignore and become irritated, but definitely not respond to action. Throughout this whole little ordeal the thought never occurred to me that the building might actually be on fire. And at the end of inconvenient symphony of irritation there in deed was no fire- which completely reinforces and strengthens our already incorrect conditioning! Hopefully in the event of a real emergency, our other senses will be alerted, because when it's only something we hear...
IT'S JUST A BUNCH OF NOISE!