Africa

This Is No Emergency

Whee Waa! Whee Waa! This is an EMERGENCY! Please evacuate the centre at the nearest exit.

Bee Baap!

Nobody moves, nobody lifts their head, nobody bats an eyelid.

This is Montclair. We don’t skrik easily. What’s wrong? If it’s fire, first show me the smoke. If it’s an earthquake, I haven’t felt nothing move yet. If you were the first person to panic and bolt in Montclair you might get teased for a long time, so every one looks nonchalant and bored.

A minute later the siren goes off again. Plus the automated announcement.

And again. For hours.

Poor old Mr Mayaba the security officer in charge eventually gets the old PA system cranked up. First time I’ve ever heard him speak on it, and I’ve been here nineteen years. He was here when I got here:

Attention customers. Don’t run away. There is nothing wrong. Please don’t run away. It is quite safe. It is just the smoke in the hairdressers setting off the smoke detectors. You do not need to worry. Please don’t run away.

He has to repeat it a few times as the Whee Waa keeps interrupting him. Once he started to explain why there’s smoke in a hairdresser – they burn the hair and . . then he sensibly leaves off the detail.

Wonderful stuff.

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