It was a little before two in the morning when Prajna nudged me. I know that nudge. I wasn’t snoring and she wasn’t having one of those dreams where a shark is chasing her with a firearm. This nudge meant only one thing. I listened at the open bedroom window and heard it too. The alarm was going off at church.
One of my jobs as custodian and keeper of the keys at Yucaipa Christian Church involves answering the alarm during off hours. The audible alarm sounds just like a car alarm with a steady downward chirp. I don’t have to get up to answer it very often, sometimes it's quiet for months. Every time I have responded to it, there has never been a break in. It is always a motion sensor and most often in the same area.
I am prepared to respond to the alarm. I keep a pair of socks in my boots and have some old loose-fitting clothes that I can pull on over whatever I’m sleeping in. I was able to get dressed and grab my keys take my flashlight and pull on my long black coat, get into the golf cart and be over at the church in less than four minutes.
To me, a flashlight is my friend. I carry the biggest MagLight® available. I also always wear my long black coat. If there is ever trouble, I want to have that on. Of course I have never encountered a bad guy. The only people I’ve ever met up with are the local police. The alarm company calls them first, then me. Last time I called them first and then almost missed when another operator was trying to call me. So now I wait. I had circled the building and saw no sign of an intruder. The alarm cut off after four minutes and my phone rang as I got to the front door of the building. I have a special ringtone just for the alarm company that’s the fire station klaxon from the old TV show Emergency! The alarm company told me what had set off the alarm, and it was a single motion sensor. If there was someone in the building there would have been a door alarm and more than one motion sensor. I told the operator to please call off the police, which I do every time it’s clear there is no break-in.
I checked all around the inside of the church, re-set the alarm and went home. I got into bed and my side was still a little warm. It was just after two in the morning. I felt awake, but relaxed. This had happened before, I would go back to sleep and blog about the ambulance and the crossing guard in the morning.
But there is something sinister about two o’clock in the morning. The “what if’s” start to appear. What if my truck’s electrical system is completely fried? What if one of our chickens is eating the some of the eggs before we gather them? What if my laptop crashes? What if terrorists explode a nuclear weapon in Los Angeles? What if my cat runs away again? What if my children make bad choices? What if one of us gets cancer?
I stayed awake for what seemed like an hour or more. I was barely asleep when Prajna twitched and I woke up. The alarm was going off again.
I was a lot more clumsy getting dressed this time. I couldn’t figure out how to get my pants on and disturbed Prajna shaking the bed. As I got my phone it rang the klaxon. I fumbled to open it right-side up and greeted the operator. It was the same sensor and I asked them to call off the police again.
Over at the church I walked through the sanctuary. It felt odd that I had been in there just over 12 hours previously. It had been bright and full of people. We sang some great worship songs. The room had been alive. Now it was quiescent. Worship folders were here and there. The room looked larger and even more empty than when I clean it mid-week. I looked long and hard at the offending motion sensor. There were no spider’s webs near it. But shining my flashlight I saw some other cobwebs nearby that I had to get with a Swiffer® duster when I was at work. But I didn't see anything that could have triggered it. This had happened to another motion sensor in the building a few months ago. Here is something about motion sensors: When they get old, they become extra-sensitive. And it seems mostly in the middle of the night they become afraid that any little thing might happen and they sound the alarm.
I re-programmed the building’s alarm to by-pass this particular sensor and I will make a note to have it looked at. Back at home I still had trouble sleeping and when I finally did sleep I dreamed that I was wandering around church answering the alarm but also trying to be nice to people who happened to be there without reserving the rooms.
I don’t think it’s my old age (okay I’m only 45) that makes me fret at two in the morning. To be sure, being a parent can do that and sometimes I wish there was a bypass code that just shut off the extra-sensitive parts of me. Actually there are such things that do that and they’re called crutches, addictive behaviors and bad habits. That motion sensor is there to keep the building safe and needs to be in working order. We can’t have it inactive. I can’t do anything to by-pass the “what-ifs” that hit at two o’clock in the morning. At least when the sun comes up the world looks less scary.