Short Story – Car alarm

I awoke with a sudden jerk, my heart raced for a few seconds. The noise that tore me from my sleep was a consistent honk. My breathing calmed down when I realized it was just someone’s car alarm.

I laid back down in my bed but couldn’t close my eyes. My dark room was only illuminated by a faint glow in the far corner. The car kept on honking. Its beat kept a solid rhythm and if it wasn’t so god damn loud, it would be a hypnotizing sound that I could fall asleep to. Just as I got used to the honk, it changed its melody into a whistle. Great, it’s one of those.

What was the point of those alarms? Wasn’t the purpose of it to alert the owner of the vehicle; get them out of bed at night because someone was about to steal their car? I didn’t own one, so it was definitely not my property waking up the whole apartment complex. But out of all the people who parked their cars outside, shouldn’t someone already have been out there dealing with the situation? If it was my car being stolen, I’d be rushing out of bed immediately.

Wait, would I? Let’s face it. I barely move an inch when the fire alarm goes off. Just another false alarm, I’d think. Probably the same with cars. How many times did those go off because someone was actually stealing it? I don’t know, every time I walked past a howling car with someone trying to get in, I didn’t bother asking. The person would even assure me that it was theirs, as if I was about to call the cops on them. I never questioned it. It’s the perfect defense, isn’t it? Maybe I should try stealing a car and see if I could get away with it. Maybe I’ll steal the one that’s whistling outside right now and drive it off a bridge. Let the fish listen to that noise instead.

The alarm switched into a whirring cry, similar to the sound effects of a cheap toy laser-gun. Was that supposed to add individuality to the noise? Was that a pattern that only the owner of the vehicle would recognize and immediately jump to action? Didn’t seem to work. No one bothered. It was still going and probably would keep going until the battery died.

I imagined everyone else, lying in bed awake, aware of the noise in the parking lot, wondering whose car was causing all that racket. Every one of them secretly blaming somebody else and not even for a second considering that it might have been their alarm. But it couldn’t be, they probably thought, no one’s stealing cars in this neighbourhood. This was likely a false alarm, and my car wouldn’t go off for no reason. And so we were all paralyzed in this Mexican Standoff, waiting for the other guy to take care of it.

This reminded me of the time I went downtown to grab a quick bite at McDonald’s. As I opened the door, an old lady came out, wearing a crappy coat, a bunch of fake jewelry, and a coat of make-up that wasn’t doing the job it intended to. With her cane in hand she walked out and as she turned the corner, two young guys jumped her. I couldn’t see everything, but they gave her a couple punches for sure as they tried to pry her purse off of her. But the purse was tightly slung around her. Unsuccessful, the robbers ran immediately. The whole thing lasted a few seconds. I was still standing there with the door open when the old lady sat down on the sidewalk. She moaned, but otherwise seemed alright. I walked into the restaurant and forgot about the incident. What was I going to do? It was over so quickly. And I’m neither a cop nor a paramedic. The two guys didn’t end up taking anything and they were gone too far for me to chase them. Why make an effort now if it wouldn’t change anything? It was ugly to see that woman get beat up for nothing, sure, and it was jarring to think that it could have been me sitting on the sidewalk with a black eye and bruised ribs. But it wasn’t me, so it didn’t concern me. Was that what my neighbours thought? Were they trying to sleep through the honking because it couldn’t have been their car alarm so it wasn’t their problem?

Yes, it went back to honking. At least now I knew the cycle and might be able to get used to it enough to fall back asleep. Why do they even install alarms nowadays? Surely over the years since the invention they must have realized that no one paid attention to it anymore. People were all functioning on autopilot. Similar to ignoring road signs because they take the same route every day, people didn’t pay attention to car alarms unless it inconvenienced them. So why install an inconvenience? Why choose to make it so annoying and loud? Sure, the first instinct was to get your attention, but that would wear off over time. Once you heard an annoying sound too often, it became just background noise that your brain wouldn’t register anymore, defeating the purpose of the whole thing.

That must be it. Everyone else must have been sound asleep. Since there was no one shouting out the window, hoping to wake up the guy whose car was whistling in the parking lot, they were all hanging out in dreamland. They were exposed to their own car alarms for so long and so often that any similar sound, no matter how sudden, stayed under their radar. Meanwhile, I was lying there in the middle of the night, wide awake, waiting for someone to finally hit the snooze on that damn alarm.

Hang on.

I sat up. My eyes got used to the lack of light. I could see the furniture in my room. The TV across the bed, the nightstand next to me, and the foldable table in the far corner of the room. The table I used to have dinner and breakfast when I watched my Youtube videos. I never folded it up and just placed it in the corner because I knew I would need it next time. That corner was also closest to another outlet that I could charge my phone with overnight.

No way. Was it…

I recently tried a new thing. I used to hit snooze on my alarm too often and overslept for most of my nightshifts. The internet provided some advice, namely to put my phone out of reach so I would have to get up in order to turn off the alarm. This would ensure that I wouldn’t just fall back asleep. The faint glow in the corner came from my phone, placed upside down on the foldable table as it charged overnight. That alone didn’t work for me, though, since I still didn’t wake up to my usual ringtone.

My phone gave off a whir as it looped through the new alarm sound. Well, I guess that idea worked in terms of waking me up.

I sat there on my bed, listening to the alarm my phone had been singing to me for a while now. What could I do now? Why turn it off if it had been going on for too long anyway? What would it change if I got up and shut it off? I laid back down. I could let it go silent on its own. Ignore it and it would snooze eventually.

No one else in the complex seemed to be bothered. No one seemed to care enough to make the noise stop before, so why make an effort now?

I went back to sleep and forgot about the incident.

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