Nothing says February in a boarding school like waking up to the ungodly blaring of fire alarms on a very cold, very early Saturday morning. Yes, I was already awake. No, I was not dressed nor had I completely removed my mascara from the previous day. Yes, I had that kind of dreadful bed head that only happens when one used hair products the day before. It had been one of those weeks that felt like two. And it’s February, the most challenging month in a boarding school so no surprise that I had dropped exhausted into bed the night before not anticipating the fun the next morning would hold.
Boarding school dormitory fire alarms are designed to rouse the dead. Within seconds, I was out of my bed, running through the dorm banging on doors, yelling “Get up!” like a crazy woman because adolescent boys can sleep through anything. ANYTHING! We all met in the parking lot, bleary-eyed and in various states of dress…...or undress. Some boys were in flip-flops; two boys were shoeless; one boy was shirtless. Several were in t-shirts and boxers. All were grouchy. Risking my life (not really), I ran back into our entryway and grabbed coats and down vests. I also grabbed the keys to the mini-van and my Honda. The boys eagerly donned a strange amalgamation of our family’s outerwear and then shivering and complaining, headed to our vehicles. Meanwhile, I waited for the fire trucks in my own bizarre and colorful ‘pajama, red flannel shirt and down coat” ensemble.
Finally, after about 40 minutes, we were allowed back into the dorm only to be told five minutes later that we had to evacuate, per the order of The Fire Chief. You see, the sprinkler system had malfunctioned, and in the unlikely event of a fire, it would not work. Trust me, I tried to negotiate. The sprinkler company would need to come out, but we had to get out. The same adolescent boys who can sleep through blaring fire alarms can also immediately fall back into a deep REM sleep. The friendly firefighters and I banged on doors, delivered the evacuation news and ordered them to pack up. As you can imagine, they were thrilled. They looked at me with a mixture of shock and horror. Shock that they would not sleep until noon as they had planned; horror because they actually took in my stand up hair, smeared mascara and odd outfit. They grumpily packed up their stuff and headed to breakfast.
Meanwhile, I headed back into my apartment, looked in the mirror……...and groaned. I cleaned up and headed to join them in the dining room. On the way over, a boy from another dorm greeted me with, “Oh, I saw you on Snapchat this morning! Good times!” Thanks, kids.
In the dining room, the boys were in better spirits, wolfing down eggs and waffles.Then the questions began.
“When can we go back into the dorm?” I don’t know.
“Can I go get my phone charger?” No, you may not.
“What’s wrong with the sprinkler system?” I don’t know.
Can I go take a shower? No!
“Can we sleep in the dorm tonight if the sprinklers don’t get fixed?” Uh, no.
“Can we go back yet?” NO!
By noon, the sprinkler company technician had fixed the compressor, explained what had gone wrong in such detail that only an MIT grad could understand, and the children cheerfully returned to their beds.