Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why I Hate the Security Alarm

We're still in the middle of a series which I intend to continue. This is just something that I was thinking of last night. And if I didn't document it, it would have gone to the same place where most of my random thoughts have gone -- the cold and abyssal void of the universe.

So please bear with me. As you will see when the series resumes, we're not straying far from the subject.

On my first day on the first part-time job in the first semester of the first year in graduate school, my supervisor took me to the back of the library. We were standing in front of this big thing with hinges, armed with scary-looking devices, which you Americans call "the loading dock door."

Part of my job was to prepare complete periodical sets to be shipped off to the binder. Every month the binder truck would pull into the loading area in the back of the library and, as I found out from my supervisor that day, I would be the one letting the truck driver in to fetch the binding orders. She led me to the door to explain how to bypass the very complex security system in order to let someone in without creating a scene.

You should have seen the look on my supervisor's face. It was as if she was thinking, "Oh, great. They sent this Asian girl, fresh off the boat, to work for me. She looks like she's never seen a door before. I'm wondering if they have doors in Thailand ..." The real tragedy is -- what I did and said that day only served to confirm what she might have thought of me.

This is merely an ipsissima vox reconstruction. Who the heck can remember the exact words? Anyway ...

Supervisor: This is the security control panel. (Points to a strange-looking box in the manner of Vanna White in front of the letter board) Currently, the alarm is on.
Leela: Okay.
Supervisor: So, in order to let the truck driver in, you need to turn the alarm system off.
Leela: Okay.
Supervisor: If you don't, the alarm will go off.
Leela: (Nods quietly, but looks very confused.)
Supervisor: And this is how you ...
Leela: Uh, wait. The alarm is now on?
Supervisor: Yes.
Leela: It's not off.
Supervisor: Correct.
Leela: But if I open the door now, ...
Supervisor: It will go off.
Leela: So by opening the door, I turn off the alarm?
Supervisor: No, no, no. When you open the door, if the alarm is still on, it will go off.
Leela: So you want the alarm off.
Supervisor: Yes.
Leela: But I thought you didn't.
Supervisor: I do!
Leela: You want the alarm off?
Supervisor: When you open the door, yes.


The conversation went on for a while before we came to a understand each other. When the alarm is on, it will go off if you open the door. To keep the alarm from going off, you need to make sure it is not on. When the alarm is not on, it cannot go off. We turn the alarm off, because we don't want the alarm to go off.

It took me a while. But after several minutes of a very embarrassing, awkward, and circular conversation, the light bulb in my head eventually went, uh, off.

But that's only because my brain was on at that time.