punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

TCEP wrapup

I got to bed around 1am Sunday morning, and fell asleep.

Until 3:30. I heard a buzzing noise. At first, I thought it was my alarm clock I used to have as a kid, and for a few seconds I had to quell the rising sense of panic that I wasn't living there anymore (I have this irrational fear, sometimes manifested in dreams, that my whole life since 18 was a dream, and I will wake up in the hell of my childhood again). But when I woke up, I "recognized" the familiar feeling of being in a hotel room, which always has that "convention smell" for me (a good smell). Then for a brief moment, I thought I was at a convention in the late 1980s, with my high school group, and some asshat had turned on the hotel alarm clock and now a bunch of people sleeping on the floor would be starting to shout mumbled curses. But quickly, I realized that the buzzing was far too faint to be a sound from within the room, and within a few seconds, a memory of working at Springfield Mall in the early 90s identified the sound.

Fire alarm.

I got up, saw my son and wife, and came back to the present day. I am at TCEP. In Laurel. There's a fire alarm. Fire alarm at a convention. Flashbacks of Evecon 2, Disclave 88, a Philcon, and a Katsucon crossed my mind. All were false alarms, and very annoying because we had to evacuate the building. I knew TCEP had more than their fair share of EMTs, former EMTs, and people who work in crisis management. I knew they would take the alarm seriously. Maybe too seriously. The room was dark, and my poor night vision was more used to the dark, but sadly, I peered out the hotel door peep hole into the bright hallway outside, and lost all my night vision in my left eye which when I returned to the dark room, maybe my whole balance go to hell as my brain panicked that I had lost sight on my left side. I was still tired. Christine woke up at this point, and asked what was going on. I told her the fire alarm.

I heard some shouting out in the hallway. A few people in their jammies, sleepily looking around. No smoke, no sounds of panic, but the sounds of people shouting over the alarm were heard.

I put my pants on, and opened the door. I saw two unidentified people, and from their size and garb, I knew were some of OUR people, running towards the stairs. Crap.

The guy in the room next to me spoke little English. His eyes were wide and her looked sacred. "What ees eet?" he asked. "Dey fiy-ah? Ess dey fi-yah?" I told him it was the fire alarm, and he looked even more scared, I think because he didn't know what the hell I just said. I went back into our room.

"Get dressed, get up..." I said to my family. Because of some weird thing Bruce said to me during the Disclave evacuation back in the 80s, I always packed one bag like "If I have to flee the hotel, I won't have to scramble for stuff." I grabbed that back, grabbed my medicine, and Christine and I were ready in 20 seconds. I called the front desk; no answer. Bad sign.

This is when my son decided he had to go pee, and locked the bathroom door. I cannot tell you the moment of fury that crossed my already agitated mind.

In elementary school, in the mid 1970s, all us kids got "what to do in an emergency." Being during the cold war, and living near DC, we got a lot of, "This is what to do when an atomic bomb hits." During some of these talks by men in funny flat "CD" hats, one talk in particular stuck in my mind, "How people deal with a crisis." This talk (and a booklet that came with it, which I still have in my library) spoke of people who do the most inane things when told to flee. One story was about a guy, during the attack of Pearl Harbor, who ran into a flaming (and sinking) battleship to retrieve his false teeth. Another spoke of how during the great Winecoff Hotel fire, guests ran back into the flames for their shoes. Then there are those people who stand outside, watching tornados come right at them. People who watch tidal waves (that they were warned about) come in. People who have never witnessed the horror of some huge disaster often don't have the common sense to flee the area when one occurs. "There were those who stayed in Pompeii, trying to decide which valuables to take with them," said the Civil Defense guy, "and they are still there to this day."

Now, since I didn't see smoke or anything outside my door or window, I guessed that there was a 90% chance this was a false alarm, or just a kitchen fire already put out. I thought, "Man, I bet all that hotel construction set something off. I hope it's not a real fire." But I wasn't taking chances, and my son's nonchalance at this nearly forced me to kick in the door, and drag his ass out of the bathroom, pants around ankles or not, and drag him to safety. But I knew I'd just hurt myself, have to pay for the hotel door, and I couldn't drag him to safety. I don't know how long he was there, but it felt like 2 minutes.

Finally we got out, and I looked for the exit signs for the stairs. My son stopped, saying the stairs were in the other direction. He was insistent, even though I was right in front of a door that said "Stairs," that had a window that showed stairs with a sign that said, "Fire route," that the stairs were in the other direction. I had to shout at him, trying NOT to scare other guests, that I was in front of the stairwell. Finally, he followed, sure I was a complete moron who had led him to a snack vending machine. I then realized that my son was "one of those people," the kind that run back for shoes, and I will have to do something about this.

We had to go down 12 flights of stairs to the ground level. We passed the lobby, where the front desk was not only unoccupied, but shut down with a garage-style metal door. There were no hotel staff in sight. People were milling around the construction, unsure what was going on. Apparently, only some floors had fire alarms going off. The elevators were not working.

My family went outside, and we waited. Finally, I went back into the lobby, and saw other guests milling around. A person said, "Someone said it's a false alarm." Someone? Who? "I don't know." I took that as a "unreliable source." No hotel staff. We were truly on our own. I went back outside, we waited some more, and then heard the fire trucks. We waited some more, and then a TCEP attendee said, "The fire department says we can come back in, someone pulled the alarm on the 4th floor." We went back in, and it was quiet.

Quote from killernurd, "I bet my dad's still sleeping." Later, Tammy told the tale of trying to convince her daughter the alarm was going off. The problem was her daughter was on the floor where the alarm wasn't working, and she had to put her ear to the door to hear it. Then Tammy had to wake up her daughter enough to convince her to leave.

I am glad there wasn't a real fire, but I couldn't get to sleep until about 6:30, I was so pissed off. Later we found out a few people had their cars broken into. Nice.

I slept until about 10:30, and then got packed. I was in a sour mood the rest of the day, also plagued with headaches from the construction fumes, and migraines on top of that. We left TCEP at 1:30 to go to Moria and Matt's new home, which we were told by many was fabulous. Apart from no good places for visitors to park, I have to agree, it was fabulous.

Then we drove home, where a migraine put me into a blissful sleep. I like sleeping during trips, it's my "time travel." I got home, and just felt sick the rest of the day. Headaches, nausea, the usual migraine stupidity.

I feel better today.

I will go back next year. Now I know more about what to expect. I think when we go next year, we'll do Saturday-Sunday only, and skip Friday night and Monday. I liked seeing old faces. I had a good time, despite the fact I am not much of a gamer. I really had a good conversation with Albedo that night, along with Liz and cjae.
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