So it was 1:49 AM. I would have been trying to sleep, but for some reason I didn't feel particularly sleepy. I was awake in that "There is nothing in this world that will make me sleepy" way that I should have been suspicious of- it's the same sort of "awake" I always suddenly wake up with about five minutes before any power outage or fire alarm. (I have never been caught asleep by a fire alarm or power outage in my entire life. And yes, I'm chalking that up to some form of precognition.) But I wasn't that suspicious.
So here I was, wasting time on the Internet, when
from outside my door. As my suitemates tend to make unusual noises with great regularity, doing things like riding skateboards in the hallway while drunk, I didn't think much of it. Until I smelled the smoke. And heard a certain sound that was all too familliar to me, and I covered my ears, knowing what sound it would be followed by...
*Beep* *Beep* *Beep* *BEEEEEEEEP* *BLAT BLAT BLAT BLAT SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE*
The fire alarm went off. I grabbed my shoes and ran; I couldn't disentangle my coat from my closet, and I only remembered when I was most of the way out that my keys and ID card were both sitting on my desk. (I left my door wide open, however, so there was no problem.)
As usual, I was the first one on the floor out and running. I ignore the "Don't run, walk" thing when 1. I can't breathe, and 2. there's nobody for me to run in to. Therefore, I was proving that my unusual gait can be extremely fast when I need it to be. Grabbing the handle to the door to the stairs to stop myself, I proceeded down to the first floor's front exit.
A blockade! The door to the stairs was closed. No big deal; a fire alarm cuts power to all magnetic door catches in the building, and the one that holds the stairway door open is no exception. So I pushed on the handle.
The door didn't open. It wasn't latched, but it was stuck.
This is what we call an "emergency situation." Desparate times call for destructive measures. Backing up as far as possible, and making sure that there was nobody close enough to see that the inevitable door damage would be my fault, I rammed the door- first my arm on the push-in latch-handle, then my shoulder just at the right edge of the door. The door opened under my high velocity; the minor bruise on my shoulder is healing. The dent in the solid wood door isn't going to, but nobody knows it was me.
As I approached the front doors, I realized that perhaps it would have been worth my time to continue fighting with my coat.
With no time for such, I went out to the assigned area, the grassy field known as "The Swamp," and waited, the loud alarm still quite audible even this far from the building. I was soon joined by many other people- this is a good thing, considering that I was wearing only my shoes, my socks, and a very thin pair of pajamas. And it was snowing. I have since found that it was 14 degrees with a wind chill down to 10, but I stood downwind of a tall person who acted as an effective windbreak.
Across the 45 minutes I was out there, I was shivering hard enough that I strained my back. (I'm okay now.) However, after it was done, I was okay. I was extremely unpleasantly cold, but I lived through it.
As soon as the campus police gave us the all-clear (even though the alarms hadn't yet been deactivated), we re-entered the building. I tried to go back up to the second floor, but the whole floor was too smoky. So I went back down to the first-floor lounge to warm up.
I later discovered that the nice, warm lounge was actually 62 degrees because some jackass had set it to "A/C 50". I turned it up to "HEAT 70," but there's something to be said for the fact that a 62 degree room felt nice and warm to me. Brett, one of the RAs for the second floor, saw me there and helped me go back to retrieve my keys and my asthma medication. I then retreated back to the lounge, took my medication, and watched "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" on Game Show Network. We were hoping that my two air cleaners and Brett opening the window would clear out the room- but not enough. So at 3:02 AM, I called my parents. They quickly agreed to take me home.
That was actually pretty uneventful, and I'm back in my dorm now, with two more ultra-heavy-duty air cleaners going on "MAX" and doing a very effective job at clearing out the odor. I'm about to go and locate my classes for tomorrow.
Oh, and the punchline: A (full-size, very large) image of what's left of Jamie's microwave is availible at http://students.cec.wustl.edu/~abn1/MicrowaveKapow.jpg.JPG should anybody want to see it.
(Oh, and I forgot to post it when I took it- a picture of what it looks like while setting up for Cheap Lunch is at http://students.cec.wustl.edu/~abn1/CheapLunch.jpg.JPG . That's Cassie in the foreground, with the chips; I can't remember the other girl in the picture, but she's the president of EnCouncil. The tall guy behind her is Geoff.)
Hmm. If I took a few pictures of campus and posted them on my webspace for all to see, would anybody care?