The fire alarm sounded in the library. People heaved the usual sighs of disgust.
It’s always some half-wit student pulling an alarm as a prank. But we know the drill: Pack up your things and exit the library in an orderly fashion. Firefighters will come and search the entire building. Once they are satisfied, we can go inside again.
You never know. One day it could be a real fire.
Well, this evening a group of us, strangers, but all grad students, stayed at our tables and kept working. Not just until we got to a stopping place, as we usually do when this weary stunt occurs. No, we stayed until a police officer entered the room.
“Y’all have to leave.”
So we descend the stairwell, klaxons echoing from all sides.
I’m the oldest of the group of laggards. A librarian greets us at the exit with a cheery, “You’re burned up.” Next person. “Burned up. Burned up.”
He sees me and falls silent. I have gray hair. Too old to be kidded. But what a disgrace, for someone of my age to hang back when the alarm goes off.