On vacation with family at Hilton Head, SC. I probably won’t post much from here, but I will tell one quick story:

On our flight here, we had a layover at the Washington Dulles airport. Layovers always suck, but this one took the suckiness to a whole new — and rather inventive — level. Involving pernicious and determined audio torture. As if air travel weren’t hard enough.

We’d been on a red eye, and it was three in the morning, our time, when we stumbled off our plane and into the terminal where we’d catch our connecting flight. As we scanned the area for monitors, an announcement sounded.

“May we have your attention please,” it intoned. “The alarm that has been activated is being investigated by the fire department. Please stand by for further instructions.”

Mike and I exchanged looks. Huh. Sounded scary. Yet, around us, airport employees looked wholly unconcerned. Some trudged towards their gates. Others sat dreaming on stools. None looked up with panic-stricken faces. No one, in fact, seemed to have even heard the alert.

In a moment, the reason for this became clear. The announcement nearly immediately repeated itself. And then it did it again. And again. And again. We spotted our gate, walked to it, found seats. The whole time: “May we have your attention, please?”

This kind of thing makes me nuts. I am auditorially sensitive. A crackling wrapper in a movie theater can send me into cursing fits. A buzzing streetlight — as we know — can keep me awake for hours. And alarms of any kind? Forget it. I become possessed. With a need to stop them, that is.

Asking Mike to keep an eye on MJ, I took a walk out into the terminal. The voice followed. Stentorian. Male: “Please stand by for further instructions.”

“Oh, shut up,” I snapped.

Seeing two women in blue uniforms, I veered into their paths. “Excuse me,” I said, politely blocking their way. “Is there anything that can be done about that?”

The women looked at me blankly.

“That what?” asked one, her glance darting quickly past me to the place — other than here — she longed to be.

“The — you know. This announcement.”

The ladies cocked their heads. They listened. Then, as if finally catching on, one of them shot me an “oh, that” look. She and her friend exchanged glances.

“No. I don’t know. Sorry.”

Clutching their Starbucks cups protectively, they strode off.

And so it went. I asked men, I asked women. Policemen, flight attendants, a pilot, several passers by. “Can’t someone do something about this?”

The nearly universal response: “Huh?”

Defeated, I returned to our gate.

Two hours went by. The alarm played the entire time.

Mike and I hardly spoke to each other. We couldn’t. Sometimes we opened our mouths, but only to chant — like indoctrinated automatons —  along with our newfound friend.

“The alarm that has been activated,” I droned.

“Is being investigated by the fire department,” Mike replied.

Finally it was time to board. As I rose to gather our things an airport employee walked by me. Desperate for an answer, or at the very least an acknowledgment, I called out to him “Excuse me?”

He stopped, clearly annoyed. “Yes?”

“What is going on? Why can’t someone turn that off?”

“What?” he said.

“The –”

“Oh, you mean that,” he said, jamming a thumb into the air above his shoulder. “I don’t know. It started yesterday. In the morning.”

He shrugged. Shaking his head slightly, he moved on.

Mike and I looked at each other. Yesterday? Jesus. I would have gone postal.

As we stood in line to board, something momentous happened. Something miraculous. Something, at this point, unthinkable. It stopped. The announcement. Stopped.

Throughout the terminal there was, for several seconds, a deep and profound silence. Or normalcy, at least. Children laughed. Cash registers rang. Twenty-something’s mumbled into their phones. But that was all. It all sounded, suddenly, so lovely. Mike broke into a wide smile. I cheered. Or started to.

Then: “May we have your attention please?” And with that, it began again.

A woman behind us groaned. Mike and I shook our heads and chuckled. “Unbelievable,” I said.

“What?” asked Myra Jean, as we towed her towards the jetway. “What are you laughing at, mama?”

“Nothing, my love” I said, as we vanished down the tubelike hall. “I was laughing at that silly man. But he’s alllllll gone now.”

3 thoughts on “Alarmed

  1. Scott

    Jessica – I suspect that the bad weather that went through Friday night may have had something to do with that. Probably tripped the alarm somehow and no one ever came to fix it.


  2. Audrey

    How funny. Yesterday there was a crazy party down the hill from us, on your street, with horrible house music BLASTING from about 3 until midnight. It was driving us nuts, and I actually thought “Jessica is lucky she’s out of town.” I guess you had your own annoying sound experience instead.


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