INFERNO! (Well, not exactly —-)

But when you’re woken out of a sound sleep at four in the morning because the hotel’s fire alarm is honking madly away, you can be excused for expecting a great drama. At least. Here’s what happened —

It had been a fine trip so far for a bunch of elderly excursioners from Northampton (including the Hub and me). We’d departed our town that morning at 7:30 sharp; had a smooth bus ride up to Ogunquit, Maine, where we’d had lunch and a walk along the cliffs by the sea, toured  a delightful small art museum, then continued north to Portland, Maine. We dropped off our luggage at a hotel which shall remain nameless,  then scattered to do our individual things. (Ours was to have a long-anticipated dinner at one of the city’s trendiest, noisiest, happening-est restaurants, Fore Street.) So — a full day already. We turned in about 11 pm, and were, for a change, fast asleep when I heard the noise — on and on and on — noise dimly penetrating my foggy brain. A fire alarm? A FIRE ALARM? I shook the Hub, who, hard of hearing, thought it was our wakeup call and reached for the phone —

Peeking out the door, I saw the swift and the fleet already heading down the hall. Quickly we  pulled on jeans, grabbed wallets, key cards, glasses, watches, cameras, jackets, a few crackers and a water bottle (you never know how long, how hungry, how thirsty), and began heading down five flights of stairs. (Some of you doubtless skim down five flights without drawing a deep breath; it’s not quite so simple in your seventies and eighties.) This is what the scene in the parking lot looked like at first to me:

But soon enough it resolved into this:

In like manner, this is how I expected the firemen to make their entrance:

But in fact this is how they actually arrived:

No smell of smoke. Surely an encouraging sign? No one rushing, except in my over-excited eyes. The firemen all had axes (hatchets?) as part of their elaborate gear, but no one rushed to hack down walls or anything. After a longish wait a manager-type appeared dangling keys to some kind of control room. And very shortly the crisis was over.

The firemen began battening down the hatches on the hook and ladder. We began our long trek back upstairs — there were far too many people heading the same direction to try and get into one of the two small elevators that service the hotel. Rumors, of course, had been flying and continued to fly all through breakfast. A false alarm? Well, yes. But why? Someone had been smoking. Or the water pressure had failed somewhere and the sprinkler system had been set off. Or none of the above. No one ever found out for sure.

But I have my own theory. In olden times travelers were lured off safe paths and into danger by will-o’-the-wisps,  lights caused by phosphorescence or swamp gases or who-knows-what. Those misleading, deluding, delusionary lights were known as ignis fatui, false fires. And so I conclude that we travelers had simply been led astray by an ignis fatuus. And I’ll stand by it. It sounds more like an adventure, and a good deal more impressive than simply having been the victims of a false alarm.

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This entry was posted in Etcetera, Life and Death, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to INFERNO! (Well, not exactly —-)

  1. Gilly Gee says:

    You sound almost disappointed! Glad you’re ok and hope you got enough sleep!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, there was certainly something of the anticlimax about it all —- although I would NOT have been happy to be in an actual fire!!!!!!
      (We didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the rest of the night, and got home quite late after another full day’s activities, so I’ve been bleary eyed for a while now. But it was a wonderful trip. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting, Gilly.)

      Like

  2. Jen says:

    You actually captured the ignis fatui in your photos! There’s one of several right above the woman in the pink t-shirt in photo 2, and a small gathering at waist-level of the fireman on the right, photo 4. See?

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  3. ahhhhhhhh…………the tale of the will-o’-the-wisps……….I see fodder for another blog entry! So glad you are okay! I love your photos!!!

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  4. Patti Kuche says:

    How wonderful though that your fantastic photos have all the drama of what became an anti-climax, or rather, the ignis fatuuis!

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  5. mybrightlife says:

    Late night adventures, exciting pics, geared up fire-men.;)…happy endings. Great read!

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  6. pauline says:

    I like those wild and blurry photos – they seem more in tune with a late night alarm than the steadier ones. Glad nothing (especially you and Frank!) was on fire!

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  7. WM says:

    Judy – you really ought to be directing movies 🙂 you have an uncanny ability to deliver the drama – sense of timing, scene, everything – from the audience point!
    That being said it must have spooked you guys – at least till you got out of your rooms.
    Mercy

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      In fact, it did.
      Two mitigating factors:
      1. given my imagination, fed on countless mystery stories, my first possibility was an enterprising burglar, emptying all the rooms;
      2. in fact we’ve experienced this before, also a false alarm, in Charleston, I think it was. Then we were on the 9th floor. On the other hand, we were twenty years younger!

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      • WM says:

        well now don’t go and get your guard all relaxed – always get a room next to the exit door in hotels – you want to strike out the next and third time also with a false alarm at best or a quick and dirty exit at worst! 🙂
        Leaving my blog-link here – spruced it up a bit while I cook up some interesting posts, but will be a while before I’m as prolific as you!!!
        Mercy

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        • Touch2Touch says:

          This is REALLY exciting, not faux exciting —
          you’ve got a blog, and it’s coming back to life.
          Can’t wait to do a whole lot of browsing, Mercy! (and I love the name)

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          • mercy says:

            Yes of course I do hope you will get the time to browse! Except, its only when I went to the trouble of doing a full-scale recategorizing I realized that so many of my old posts were on ‘politics’ – in the heady days leading into the Obama inauguration – and today, even I, don’t recognize the context of some of my allusions coming knee-deep from the weeds as they were! So I’ve done a broad brush trimming, sorting and weeding of sorts….the other thing of course was I kept it very private, and even now would like to maintain some of that, so in that way wordpress, allows you to control some of your interactions…so lets see.

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          • Touch2Touch says:

            Good luck with the “gardening”!

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  8. tms says:

    First of all, I was relieved to read that no damage was done (except to your “Nachtruhe”, as we say). But then, it is a story very well told, not the least by the pictures: Great use of camera swipes (is that the technical termi in English?) for dramatisation. Great – exciting – post., Judith!

    Like

    • tms says:

      I was looking for “motion blur” – please excuse my English…

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I can guess what Nachtruhe is, but haven’t heard of camera swipes. So that’ll be the morning’s look-up.
      I was just snapping away — it had a great calming effect on my mind — and figured I’d worry about what I got later when I saw it in the computer. And then I was delighted with some of the whatever-they-are’s, I realized they helped so much to tell the inner story!

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  9. Joe Clarke says:

    I’m glad that it was a false alarm and you are both OK. I know of your affection for Philadelphia and its downtown hotels, so you will find the next story of interest. Recently there was a fire scare at a well-known hotel in Center City, Philadelphia, where some would-be Meth manufacturer had set up a mini lab in a room of the hotel. (http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-30/news/32924312_1_center-city-hotel-hotel-worker-meth) Evidently it is much better, because of the smell put off by the process, to rent a room than to seriously stink up a room in someone’s home. In any case, they caught this entrepreneur and he will be facing some serious time for his act.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Obviously Portland is a sleepier town than Philadelphia.
      Even my imagination is outpaced by today’s realities. Two stories with happy endings, that’s good.
      Thanks for the Philly update, Joe.

      Like

  10. Rebekah says:

    Oh, I’m glad it wasn’t anything worse. We live in this big apartment complex [160 units] and we’re on the top floor. Three times, the fire alarm has gone off now, and it scares me beyond comprehension just to think about it. I quickly drag out the cat cage, and other important stuff and we get out. All three times, when I’ve been looking up the building, people have been standing on their balconies wondering what’s going on?! I don’t know what’s the matter with them .

    A very dear, online buddy of mine, was a fire fighter in Philly, he loved his job and had lots of stories to tell [ref. to above comment].

    Like

  11. I love how the pictures tell your story – thanks for making me smile!

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  12. Madhu says:

    What excitement! Am impressed that you remembered to grab your camera and clicked photos 🙂

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Me too!
      But I was afraid of the camera being stolen (in case this was a burglar’s scam, how the imagination runs away!), and it also was a way to pass the time and avoid panic.

      Like

  13. I’m glad both of you are OK and that it turned out to be a late night adventure 🙂 I’m also very impressed that you remembered to grab crackers and water for a late night snack! Shows how calm and collected you were!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Not sure how really calm and collected —
      But certainly in the habit of having crackers and water available on all possible occasions! That’s experience in action 😉
      (Like I never go anywhere without a book on hand, on the principle that You Never Know)

      Like

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