Domestic Security

The Austin Compound version 2.0 is equipped with a state of 1995 art security system.  We don't subscribe to the service, so all we have is a bunch of window and door sensors that say "bee-dee-bee-deep" when opened and fire alarms, none of which are in the kitchen.

So we've never really had anything happen in the 2 months we've been here, knock on wood.  The door beeps and it's nice to have when you have kids that can open doors.

Three weeks ago we lost power.  A transformer blew somewhere close by and our street went dark.

It was 2:30 in the morning.

The first thing I remember is the noise.  Your brain tends to incorporate sounds into the dreams you have.  Since dreams don't generally take but a few seconds to complete, even a high pitch sounds occurring for moments can be part of an entire dream saga.  I wish I remembered the dream.

The noise woke me, but it wasn't just the noise, it was all the noises.  Mrs. Austin tends to mumble when she's startled awake.  I tend to fight for breath through snorts and epithets.  The children were already awake and it didn't take them long to start crying.  The next thing I remember thinking is that something bad was happening, but not exactly what.  Instinctively I glanced at the clock, knowing that was pointless.  Our clock dims when the room is dark so it doesn't keep you awake.  The problem is, when it's dark, you can't tell the time.  However, I now know the ceiling fan, the AC, the noise machine and the DVD lights are all off.  We lost power.

I start to relax a bit.  At first, I'll admit, I was paralyzed with fear.  I wasn't sure if someone had broken in or not.  Knowing we don't arm anything, I've never heard the wailing the system was giving us.  I was truly frightened.

As an aside, waking suddenly and being paralyzed doesn't mean you're afraid, it means your brain hasn't restored the connection to your body.  It's a safety measure your body uses so you don't hurt yourself acting out your dreams.  When you wake paralyzed, it's because you've woken too suddenly for that connection to be re-established.  I think I've talked about this before, so this just make me look like an ass.  Yay me.

When I was fairly certain it was just a power loss, I sprinted upstairs to the frightened children.  A great but receding portion of my thoughts focused on the likelihood that there was someone in the house.  It was pitch black and I was running into the void.  I could have run smack dab into an intruder, him armed with a crow bar and a Glock, me armed with a minor stabbing implement sheathed in dark blue Haines.

I knew Mrs. A was behind me, which is unusual.  She's normally so scared I'm sent into the darkened house with a hockey stick looking for "what made that sound."  That alone made it feel more frightening, the fact that she was moved to action.  I sprinted up the stairs blindly following the cries of my children.  Little Mrs. Austin was standing in her doorway crying with her hands on her ears.  I told her to go downstairs and find mommy.  Everything was ok.  Running into Yogi's room, I step on the only thing I could have at that moment, a toy with corners.

I step funny, jar my knee and hop around spewing more epithets.  Yogi is crying and sitting stock still in his bed (it's amazing how much you can see with just starlight.)  I hoist him up and cart him downstairs where Mrs. A is frantically going through our homeowner’s paperwork looking for the code to the security panel.  Flashlights are out, children are calming down, but the alarm sounds are piercing and unrelenting.

After many, many, MANY attempts at entering the code, Mrs. A calls the company.  The gist:  Hey, our street lost power and my alarm is going off.  I don't have a service with anyone, but the power loss must have triggered something.  I have the code, but nothing I'm doing is turning the alarm off.  How am I supposed to enter this?  The response:  I'm sorry ma'am.  I can't hear you.  Can you stop that noise?  After about 10 minutes, Mrs. A screams at them, questioning the lineage of the technician or his proclivity for anal sex and hangs up.

The kids are still crying, the alarm is still going.

Finally I get the bright, 3am idea to go get the ladder and rip the motion detectors out of the wall, because it's the motion detectors making the sound.  It doesn't occur to us that the alarm system has been turned off, but the fire alarm is still going.  That’s all the noise. At this point we've gone into our closet and removed the back up battery to the security system in a desperate attempt to shut the sound off.

I finally was able to remove the hardwired fire alarms, all three, then remove their batteries.

Finally, the sound stops.  The kids are squeaking and sobbing, Mrs. A is shaking and I'm sweating and trembling.  We give the children some milk; we get more water for us and we all go back to our bed and snuggle up in the ever-increasing heat of possibly the hottest night of the year in Austin.

The next day we hook everything back up.  I've got a possible lateral meniscus (knee disc) injury, but so far it's minor and some ice and ibuprofen have taken care of it.  We also know how to shut the alarm system down, and we also know how to shut all the sounds off.

I remember my parents doing fire drills when we were kids.  Not with any frequency, maybe once or twice in our first house.  We worked on what we'd do if we had to leave through the second story, how to tell if the fire was outside the door, where to meet, what else to do.  

This was as close as we've come to any exercise, and not only was it traumatic for the children but it really made me feel vulnerable and insecure.  Think about it, by the time my brain fog had lifted, an intruder could have made their way to the bedroom and snuffed us out.  No alarm system would have stopped them from killing all of us.  Robbery, I can see this being a deterrent, but assault?  A little noise isn't going to stop shit, except the brain functions of two adults trying to find four numbers with a flashlight at 3 AM.

And it did its job well.    

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