Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alarms in the night

I was soaking in the warmth of sweet sleep and my wife came in.
"Hey...wake up!! what's that noise?"
"What the...Huh?"
"C'mere...listen....it sounds like an alarm and I smell smoke...do you smell smoke?"
Ok...I'm awake but still groggily searching for my glasses. I staggered to the window now noticing the siren like noise that caused my wife to stir. At first, I thought it sounded like a car horn. But it could also be a fire alarm like the one we heard when the apartment across the hallway caught fire. I smelled no more smoke than I would normally smell in the city at this time of year. I tried to triagulate the location of the sound but could only figure it was coming from the apartment across the parking lot. I saw no smoke billowing out of any of the apartments. I looked at the clock-3:34am.
"It's not coming from this apartment. Call the security guy and tell him to investigate it."
"shee-lo!" she said sheepishly in Korean to let me know that was not something she was inclined to do. She closed the windows and went back to bed. So, I picked up the phone to call the guy downstairs.
"No answer...probably sleeping at this hour." I thought to myself. "Forget it, go back to bed." So, I walked off to bed cursing the time of night and lamenting the thought of getting up in a mere 4 hours. But as I laid in bed, the sound that I couldn't even hear whilst bathing in sweet sleep was now an incessant dog whistle beckoning me to seek out its source. I put on my shirt and sandals and announced, "I'm going downstairs to find out what it is."
"OK, I'm going back to sleep." My wife advised.
"I can't sleep now." I said as I closed the door. Once on the first floor, I found the security guard sound asleep. I knocked on the door and spoke "Adjusshi!!"" I repeated several times envying him his sound sleep and then as I walked off in the direction of the noise which was now obviously coming from the basement parking lot.
The mystery was revealed. Just as I had thought it was a stuck car horn. It was one of those 'bongo' pickup trucks that drives around with a PA system on the top announcing to the world that there were fruits and veggies to be had. I chuckled as the thought crossed my mind that this truck just doesn't know when to shut up. As I drew closer, the sound got louder and then almost deafening. I tried the doors - no luck. I banged on the hood, stupidly hoping that the sound would stop with a jar. Then, I looked for a phone number on the dash. Sloppily written with a sharpie on a compact disk was the driver's phone number. I searched my pockets and realized that I didn't bring my phone. The sound was incessant and had now grown into a full-blown headache. The thought of sleep now long gone and replaced by an urge to take a couple of Tylenol and brush my teeth.
I knew, without any doubt, that if i did not do something about this, I would be hearing that sound all night and sleep would be out of the question. I turned around to go and get my phone and noticed a door. I remembered that I had seen some security guys walking in and out of that door from time to time but thought, "Surely not. Who could hear that and do nothing" as I turned the doorknob and pushed the door open to find two crumpled figures asleep soundly on a heated floor.
"Adjusshi!" I demanded attention gently, "Jo Ghee Yo!!" and then realized that someone who could sleep throught the blare of a car horn not 10 meters away would not likely wake up with gentle chiding. "AADUUSHEEEEEEEEE!!! JOGEEEEYOOOOO!" I made my best attemt to be loud but reasonably polite sounding and one of them stirred and woke. It was not immediately evident that he was coherent of the sound coming from the parking lot. So, lacking the proper language skills, I just opened the door and pointed. He blankly looked at me like "What do you want me to do about it." Though he dare not say that to me. I told him he should try to call the owner.
"There's no phone number. " He said and led me to the conclusion that somehow he had known about the noise and deliberately done nothing.
"There IS a phone number on the dash." I said in Korean and walked out as he was still digging for his phone. I came back and gave him the phone number and he called. No answer. And indicated his resignation to leave it alone. Frustrated with his lack of concern, I just turned to leave. The other security guard was still either asleep or feigning during the entire exchange. "How the hell can he sleep," I commented a bit rudely and left.
Back in my apartment, the sound that was barely audible when I had first been stirred was still ringing in my ears enough to make it difficult to sleep. I remembered the phone number and called. Someone picked up the phone.
"YoBoSayYo" I greeted --- no answer. So, I hung up. I sent the best Korean message I could think of "Car....problem....go see!!!" I waited and then fumbled through the electronic dictionary in my phone looking for the words disconnect, battery, and horn after that I sent another message. This time I received a call a few minutes later.
"Who is this." demanded the Korean-speaking voice.
"Finally, someone responds." I thought and then said in Korean, "Your claxon is honking."
"What." I assumed that claxon was somehow not the right word though I recall that is what they called it.
"Do you drive a 'bongo' parked in the basement of Woobang Apartments?" I managed to make a full sentence in Korean.
"Yes." came the terse answer. I was annoyed by the curtness of his answer until I realized that I probably would not like being called at 3:45 in the morning even if my car was making a problem.
"Your car is noisy. Please see to it." I was not using the polite form anymore.
"Alguesseumnida." The voice replied understanding and hung up.
I was fairly confident that the sound would be taken care of and it was perhaps that confidence that led me to lay in bed and waiting for the sound to cease. I imagined a person getting out of bed and getting dressed and going to his truck. It seemed like it was taking forever but I could still hear the ringing in my ears. I wondered if the ringing was just my imagination as a variety of other early A.M. sounds seeped through the closed windows. I got out of bed again to see if the sound had stopped, but it had not. I closed both outside and inside windows, knowing that it would make the house stuffy. It was 4:40. I laid down and eventually fell asleep with a pillow over my head. When i woke up the next morning, the sound was gone and the house felt like a sauna. I hope his battery ran out.

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