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For the second time in as many weeks, we awoke to the sound of a female voice. Normally one would embrace such a welcome. Not today.

Accompanied by an intermittent BEEP, the pre-recorded woman explained to us “this is an emergency.” Damn right it’s an emergency — I’m being robbed of my sleep. The police and firemen are on their way, yet this is one robbery they cannot stop. I crawled out of bed and into my flip-flops. At the same time I read my clock — 4:40 am. I’d been asleep for two hours.

As most individuals know, one is not to use an elevator during a fire, and hence a fire alarm. I have been granted the privilege of a sixth floor penthouse, which means a long descent to the street below. The walk down six flights is not bad; however, the post-alarm student bottleneck typically jams the elevators. I would count these stairs again, in reverse, on the ascent back up.

As students pour out of the building onto the street, I take the time to look things over. This is an excellent chance to see students caught at their worst. No makeup, cologne, or combed hair here. Not too surprisingly, everyone looks the same as they always do — I guess this is MIT.

The firemen come. The small collections of female students do not take note. Some stragglers make it out of the building late, walking between the trucks. We wait 15 minutes for readmission. The sun has risen generously in this time. Boston, being on the edge of the east coast, probably sees the sun half an hour before my hometown. I guess there are some perks to waking at 4:40 a.m.