While washing my mug at 3:15 this afternoon, I all of a sudden heard the most awful piercing scream. At first I thought it was the pipes, and when turning the water off didn't make it stop, I turned to glare accusingly at my laptop, don't ask me why. Finally it twigged that this sounded alarmingly like the smoke detector, which I of course immediately glared at, until I realized that a) there was nothing in the apartment that could possibly be setting it off and b) there was a second tone sounding, almost as loud but slightly lower pitched, and sounding like it came from elsewhere in the building. Shit. It's not real, I told myself. Just a damned drill or something. I fancied I smelled smoke, but I knew that could be psychosomatic. Either way, it seemed that going out was unavoidable. Let it never again be said that one shouldn't leave one's clothing lying around. I was already wearing a sarong and slippers, and it took me but a split second to grab and put on the first top at hand (quelling irrational thoughts of "but it doesn't match!") In the time it took me to do that, I considered and rejected bringing my laptop, and remembered that my keys weren't in my purse. Fortunately they were in the first place I looked, so I grabbed them and my purse and headed out, locking the door behind me. In the hall there was no longer any question about the smoke.
Entering the stairwell, I joined a woman from the floor above me, also leaving the building. As we descended in silence, the smoke was getting thicker, and I was trying to remember what I had learned in school about what you do if the fire is between you and your exit. The only clear thought I had was "walking into fire = bad idea."* This continued until we reached the third floor landing, where we saw a woman sitting on the step, crying. She saw us and said "It's in my apartment. All my stuff is in there." "Okay," I replied, sympathetic sweetheart that I'm not, "we have to get out of the building. Come on." The other woman and I each took one of this woman's arms and coaxed her up and moving. Another floor down and another person, this one all panic-faced, asking "Where's the fire?" "It's on the third floor," I told her, "let's just get out of the building." This seemed to baffle her a bit, but she moved, and finally we were outside.
Everything is fine (except probably for that poor woman whose apartment it was), there was no damage to me or my place, and the fire fighters let us back in the building after about 25 minutes of watching first smoke, then water, pour out of a couple of third-floor windows. And that was my little adventure for today.
*While I know that fire alarms are designed to be rattling to get people moving, there's got to be some frequency/volume combination that has that effect without also seriously impeding cognitive function. Loud, high-pitched noises just make me stupid.