`What is that noise?'
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Friend wife padded toward the door, debating the outrageous insensitivity of all these rather rude demands. I started putting on my pants. Friend wife, who rebels up to a point, is a stickler for authoritative instructions and, since the voice had not instructed anyone to put on pants, she perhaps thought I was cheating.Skip to next paragraph
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``What are you doing?'' she screamed (to be heard above the siren).
``Putting on my pants,'' I yelled. ``I don't smell any smoke, so why not get dressed?'' She accepted this and began searching the suitcases for her earrings. She has her logic, I have mine.
She called to me: ``How will they apply that rule, women and children first?''
``That's only for sinking ships,'' I shouted. ``When there aren't enough lifeboats! I think the hotel is big enough for everyone all at once.''
In no time at all we entered the stairwell and became part of a stream of people somnambulating downward. They were a bleary lot. Not only from being waked out of sound sleep but also because they had been going round and round in steady descent from very high altitudes.
It was not until we bottomed out and entered the lobby at long last that I encountered the strangest group of all. The only way to describe the stupefied, heterogeneous tableau of about 100 people is to say that Halloween will never scare me again. They all looked like actors in a science-fiction movie who had been captured by some expressionless, outer-space creatures. I gradually recognized these invaders standing guard as firemen, all wearing huge, black, armor-like rubber coats; oversize, pointed firehats; and heavy black and red boots.
As it turned out, there was no fire and no smoke. Only the continuing blast of the fire alarm and the Gilbert and Sullivan chorus standing awaiting their cue.
I held back, fearing that if I joined this group, I would turn into Salvador Dali. But I was pushed forward by the staggering people behind me, pressing on in search of solid ground.
There was a thin, baldheaded man with bare feet, wearing the worst pair of pajamas I have ever seen, which includes those in my own closet.
There was the pudgy woman, insufficiently wrapped in what must have been her daughter's robe. Her daughter apparently had to settle for her father's raincoat.
Pudgy loudly complained, ``I'm backwards from the hips down!''
To which her daughter shouted a reply, ``It is impossible to put pantyhouse on backwards.''
Eventually we were returned to our rooms via the elevators.
Perhaps there is some purpose to all this. At least such events are rare enough to be remembered in a special category along with ``the day Mom went into the men's washroom'' or ``the day Dad sat on the wedding cake.''
At least we had no trouble falling asleep the following night. But one can never be too complacent about the law of averages.
At around three in the morning the same fire alarm went off, and my wife, as before, was lifted into the air.
``I dreamed this happened last night!'' she screamed.
The clear, officious female voice began: ``Attention please! A fire alarm has been activated. . . .''
Goodbye forever to cozy corners.
Guernsey Le Pelley