The other day, I was in the middle of a lesson when a horrible screeching noise started flowing through the air.  A few of the students jumped, and others suddenly had frightened looks on their faces.  Something was definitely amiss.

“That’s the fire alarm,” someone said.

Before I get too far into this story, let me mention something about sirens.  I didn’t expect to hear very many here since this is a fairly small town, but they’re always assaulting my ears.  Car alarms go off constantly.  There’s the strange warehouse thing across the street with its siren that rings out at all hours of the night.  Many people must get injured and be victims of crime, because I hear a lot of ambulances and police cars.

Therefore, when my class was interrupted by a siren, it took a second to realize that something might be wrong.  The reactions that I saw on the students made me wonder if I was about to burn to death.  And then came the fateful “That’s the fire alarm” statement.

Suddenly everyone relaxed.  The general consensus seemed to be that it wasn’t a big deal.  We were no longer in danger.  It was as if someone had made the following statement:

“Don’t worry, that’s just the fire alarm.  The Hostile Alien Invasion Alarm has a higher pitch to it.  It’s obviously not the Imminent Nuclear Meltdown Siren because that has much more fluctuation to the sound.  Everything’s fine, we’re just going to burn to death.  Did anyone see the game last night?”

I now realized that the fire alarm was one of the many things that no one had mentioned.  Finding out what day school ends was difficult enough, how am I supposed to learn about something unlikely?  So I asked the students, “What do we do?  Do we go outside?”

They gave the blank look that they usually reserve for when I ask for their homework assignments.  Finally, one of them suggested I look in the hallway to see what everyone else was doing.  That’s a great idea!

As I opened the door, one of the staff members of the school was walking down the hallway as if he couldn’t even hear the sound.  I glanced down into the lobby, and there were some students just lounging around like they normally are.  No one was leaving the building.  I expected to see orderly lines or a chaos full of people running and screaming.


I shut the door and pondered for a second.  It was pretty cold outside, so I decided just to stay and wait.  As one of the students pointed out, we were on the ground floor and could always jump out the windows.  Eventually, the alarm turned off and I didn’t hear any more about it.

Today, I was in the teachers room when it went off again.  Everyone acted as though they couldn’t hear it, and someone complained to me about the noise.  She said, “that is the fire alarm and it goes off all the time but it’s never a real fire.”

I’m knocking on wood that I didn’t jinx this, but why do they even have the alarm?  It goes off and everyone ignores it.  They could unplug it and save electricity.  Maybe it’s a prank that the whole school – students and teachers – is playing on me.  Perhaps that’s what the last staff meeting was about.  The whole discussion was in Hungarian, hmm…


Hungarian word of the day:


It means “fire”.  Feel free to yell it in Békéscsaba, Hungary – no one seems to mind.