It was a few weeks ago when I noticed an odd sound in the hall outside my dorm room.
Where is that coming from? I wondered, trying to follow my ears to the offending noisemaker. It was not coming from INSIDE the wall, and it was not coming from anything on the “free table” placed in the walkway. It wasn’t coming from my backpack, or from any of the girls around me. I shrugged it off as either a figment of my imagination or a sign that I am, indeed, losing my mind, and walked on.
The next day, though, I heard it again. Okay, I thought. Very funny, hallway.
I was standing in the same place as the day before, which led me to think that it must be something that lives in that location. I began to investigate again, and found myself nose-to-nose with a fire extinguisher (well, it would have been nose-to-nose if fire extinguishers had noses).
“Whoa!” I said. “Where did you come from?”
“BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” said the fire extinguisher.
“You’ve been right outside my door all year, haven’t you?”
“I’ve never noticed you. How is that possible?”
“Why are you buzzing?”
Satisfied that I had discovered the source of the strange noise, I abandoned this fruitless conversation and entered my dorm. I couldn’t focus on homework, though. The buzzing was bugging me. Why on earth would a fire extinguisher buzz? Forcing the thought from my mind, I glued my eyes to my textbook and insisted that my brain concentrate on the task before me.
A few weeks later, the buzzing was still happening. Last night, in fact, I decided that something needed to be done about it.
“BERACAH!” I said, sitting straight up in bed (a dangerous thing, considering my head comes within millimeters of making contact with the ceiling).
My roommate, who was just entering the room, said nothing.
“Put your ear against that fire extinguisher out there! Is it buzzing?”
I realized it was a question that could easily get me taunted if she didn’t hear it. So, as she poked her head out our door and studied the fire extinguisher, I prayed that it would still be buzzing.
“Yes, it is,” she said.
Relieved, I asked her what caused it. Since she is older than me, the RA of our hall, and a very smart person, I expect her to know these things. I expect her to know everything, really: why the sky is blue, how fast sea horses can swim, and what causes fire extinguishers to buzz.
“I don’t know,” she answered, crushing my hopes and dreams.
I laid back down and perused the ceiling. We have a boring ceiling. It’s just plain white, with no pattern or anything.
“I have a theory!” I announced, sitting back up. “Maybe it only buzzes when our air or heat is on!”
“Maybe,” she said.
I waited, knowing that surely she would realize that testing this theory was a good idea… and, of course, it needed to be done immediately, so as to prevent the impending disaster that the buzzing surely indicated.
I waited some more.
Finally, I thought maybe she needed it to be explained to her.
“You should test it!” I told her. “I don’t want to climb down,” I added, peering over the edge of the bed to the floor, which was very far below me.
“Fine,” she said, switching off our heat and poking her head out the door. She peered around the corner and studied the red can for a moment. Then she came back.
“It’s not buzzing!” she said.
“Okay, turn the heat BACK on and check again!” I instructed. She complied. She’s nice like that.
“It’s kind of going ‘buzzz….. buzzzz…..’ with pauses in between,” she told me.
Hmmm. Maybe it had to gain momentum each time before it started the long, continuous buzz. It seemed my hypothesis might be leaning in the right direction. I laid back down and continued my study of the ceiling.
“I just can’t decide what kind of buzz it is, you know?” I told Beracah.
“Sure,” she said, but I felt like she didn’t really understand. So I explained.
“Like, I don’t know if it’s a happy kind of purr, like it’s excited to be a fire extinguisher. Or maybe it’s an angry buzz, like it’s bored and ready for a fire to put out. Or maybe it’s a content hum.”
“You know…” said Beracah, who seemed to be thinking the matter over deeply,
“I don’t really think fire extinguishers experience emotion.”
That was something I had not considered. I guess my family’s tendency to give human characteristics to inanimate objects (we name our cars) has become a real problem for me.
“So…” I said to the ceiling. “If the fire extinguisher is not feeling any emotion, why is it buzzing?”
The ceiling did not answer.
Then, I realized.
“IT’S ABOUT TO EXPLODE!” I yelled to Beracah. “OH MY GOSH, the fire extinguisher is going to explode, and it’s going to fly through that wall and hit me in the head in the middle of the night, and I’m gonna die!”
“No it’s not,” said Beracah. “Go to sleep.”