Mischievous students tempted to set off fire alarms

Bob Quall is a two-time United States Tennis Association national champion, and a former Merced County Superior Court judge. You can email him with comments or suggestions at: robertquall@comcast.net.

Do you have a fire alarm in your  house? Undoubtedly. Very important to have in any structure.

The alarm goes off, you vacate the premises immediately. However, there are opportunities to falsely set off fire alarms, which should not happen. That being said, my roommate  at Whitworth  could not resist setting off the fire alarm during finals week in the spring.

Jay and I roomed about 20 feet across the hall from the fire alarm, screwed into the wall. The dorm proctor’s room was two feet away from the fire alarm, with his door opening into his room. Jay had determined that he could use a double fish line and run it through the alarm ring. Once he pulled the fish line from behind our closed door, the alarm would go off. It then was a simple matter of letting loose of one end of the fish line and jerking the line back under our door. That procedure took a maximum of two seconds. Fool proof.

Jay pulled the alarm at 2 a.m. Sunday night of finals week. The alarm went off again Monday night at 2 a.m. and Tuesday night at 2 a.m. The vast majority of the 70 dorm residents were ticked off. Really ticked off. Jay and I had fairly easy finals, but evidently they didn’t. The dorm proctor, David, had slept Monday and Tuesday nights on the floor next to his door. When the alarm went off, within five seconds he had his door open, but no one was there! How could that be? Remember, Jay’s fish line needed only two seconds to disappear!

Dean of Men, Jasper Johnson, had so many complaints that he decided to call a mandatory dorm meeting to be held  Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in Westminster Lobby. I personally believed that this was a bad move to try and solve the alarm problem on our  home turf.

The entire student dorm population gathered promptly at 8 p.m.  Dr. Johnson explained that the act of pulling the alarm was not mature, and  certainly was juvenile.  The act prevented sleep which resulted in poor test performances and he was sure that it wouldn’t happen again.  This lecture in different forms went on for about 20 minutes.

He suggested closing in prayer. He invited any or all of the students to pray and he would close.  This is where he lost the room, so to speak.  John started out and prayed for five minutes which is  long when the only subject is the fire alarm.  Then others decided that the prayer session should last maybe an hour if they got enough men to join in.  I could see us not winding down until 10 o’clock.

You won’t believe what happened next. A Nathan Hall resident happened to be in the basement practicing riding his unicycle up and down the basement hallway.  He  came up the stairs and heard Dr. Johnson waxing eloquent on the juvenile behavior of the person pulling the alarm. I guess he couldn’t help himself, but once Dr. Johnson initiated the prayer session, Alex waited 15 minutes and pulled the fire alarm positioned on the wall in the basement.

Well, prayer or no prayer, when the fire alarm goes off, you must exit the building as fast as you can. Within a matter of seconds, all 70 of the dorm members and Dr. Johnson had vacated the dorm and were standing in the parking lot.  Game over.  Alex grabbed his unicycle and vamoosed.

To my chagrin, someone had let out the air of all four tires of Dr. Johnson’s Plymouth. Jay and I decided the least we could do was to get two more guys and get his tires back up to speed. We got some tire pumps but it takes a long time to pump up a car tire. Finally, the tires had enough pressure for Dr. Johnson to vacate the premises. We told him we appreciated his talk and hopefully the alarm wouldn’t go off again.

We never did see Dr. Johnson near Westminster Hall the rest of the spring. Jay showed some maturity and decided enough was enough and retired the fishing line.

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