The Fire Drill From Hell

Going remote this semester for me has meant living with my family for a longer period of time than I ever expected. It gets tough living in a small house with my parents and my grandma since we inevitably get on each other’s nerves and in each other’s spaces. So when my mom’s friend asked me to stay at her place for a week and look after her cat while she went on vacation, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’ll admit it, I got really lucky. My mom’s friend owns a gorgeous apartment in Ft. Lauderdale on the fifteenth floor of a beautiful building. The apartment has an amazing balcony and view of Las Olas and the city. She paid me to look after her cat who is super low-maintenance and calm. It was the perfect opportunity and I was so happy to get some space and some much-needed alone time. Having an apartment all to myself also meant more quiet time to do my school work. Overall, it was an ideal setup.

Florida palms Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

So fast-forward two days into my stay at the apartment. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and felt like such an independent adult. I shopped and cooked for myself, I did my school work, I looked after the cat, and always had time at the end of the day to watch TV and relax. It was great. I hadn’t felt so independent in such a long time. I felt confident and secure, nothing could phase me. Until that fateful day when all hell broke loose in the span of twenty minutes. 

I was in the middle of my political science class via Google Meet when a loud and cold automated voice made an announcement. It said a fire had been reported and that all occupants of the building had to immediately evacuate the complex. This was not a drill, but an actual report. The fire alarm went off and flashing lights began to flicker. I left my class meeting and went into panic mode. What proceeded was an absolute shit show I will never forget. 

My mom’s friend hadn’t told me anything about fire drills or the fire-alarm settings of the building, so I had to assume this was a serious situation that required me to act with all precautions. I packed up some of my schoolwork and my laptop and was ready to evacuate when I realized I couldn’t leave the cat. I would never forgive myself if I left her in the apartment and knew the second I saw her that she had to come with me. However, I worried that if I just carried her she could freak out and jump out of my arms. So I chose to take a different route. 

I noticed a stroller in the apartment that looked like it was used for dogs or cats. Without hesitation, I picked up the cat, put her in the stroller, zipped it up, and proceeded to leave the apartment. I was planning to take the elevator when I realized I had to take the stairs. The cold automated voice spoke up again and reminded me this was not a drill and that every occupant had to take the stairs. Now, remember, I’m on the fifteenth floor of this apartment rolling around a stroller with a cat inside. The alarm is still blaring, lights are flashing, and I just realized that I have to take this stroller down fifteen flights of stairs. The cat seemed to realize what I was about to do and was not happy about it. 

Now let me give you some context. This is a very vocal cat. She meows all the time for no reason, almost as if she’s talking to you. The owner had told me this so I never thought twice about it. But now, the cat wasn’t just meowing, she was screaming. She knew she wasn’t in her home and she didn’t like it. I felt so bad that she wasn’t happy, but I had no choice. I had to carry her in the stroller down the stairs whether she liked it or not. 

yawning cat with tongue Serena Koi

Since we were in a tiny stairwell with superb acoustics, the sound of the cat’s yells echoed and intensified. A man also leaving my floor helped me carry the stroller, so it was a pretty smooth ride for the cat overall. She wasn’t in any physical discomfort from what I could tell. For the most part I think she just wanted to know what the hell was going on. I felt terrible though and kept trying to reassure her in any way I could that everything was fine, but she just kept screaming. I don’t know how the man helping me put up with the entire situation, but we reached the first floor fairly quickly. Once we got down, the cat calmed down a bit and I looked like the one who was panicked. I was drenched in sweat and disoriented. I’m pretty sure I looked off because several people asked if I was okay. I don’t think rolling around a cat in a stroller made me look any more sane. Thankfully no one outright questioned my state but I did receive some questionable looks. Soon enough, a lady informed us that it was just a false alarm and that we could all go back to our apartments. Of course. 

I felt pretty relieved that there wasn’t an actual fire and took the elevator back up to the fifteenth floor. I made my way to the apartment and was trying to unlock the door when the key got stuck. I assumed I just remembered the wrong apartment number and walked around a bit to find the right one, but at this point, every door looked the same. It took me a solid five minutes to realize there were two wings of the apartment complex and that I of course was at the wrong one. Keep in mind, I still have the cat, who at this point is just pissed off at me. It took me another ten minutes and the help of another concerned person to find the right apartment. Eventually, I made my way back to the right place and let the cat out of the stroller. She acted like nothing had happened and went back to her usual business. I, on the other hand, was still recovering.

I proceeded to call my mom and bawl my eyes out. I told her about the whole situation. I told her how I felt stupid and embarrassed, how worried I was that I stressed the cat out. My mom reassured me I did the right thing by taking the cat but not before she laughed about the whole story. It took me a solid day until I could laugh about it too, but at that moment I was so panicked, I couldn’t think clearly. 

The rest of my stay at the apartment went fairly smoothly, but that one experience showed me I’m clearly not as self-assured and independent as I would like to be. So being at home with my parents isn’t so bad. I think that fire drill taught me that and if not, it at least gave me a funny story.