We’ve just had E.M.A.N.S. boxes installed all across the campus, including here in our office. The acronym stands for “Emergency Mass Alert Notification System,” and it’s designed to let people note about emergency situations, like if there was madman roaming around with a gun. It’s a fairly discrete system, designed to avoid mass panics. It’s not a blaring bullhorn. It’s a small box, mounted on the wall, that broadcasts an audio signal and displays a text message in emergency situations.

This morning they were testing the service. A technician just came by to ask if we’d heard the alarm. At first, we didn’t think we had. Indeed, I was oblivious. But it turns out that Janice and Olivia did hear it. It’s subtler than we expected, and Olivia said it sounded like “aliens.” The technician confirmed it sounds like the Asteroids game, or a chirping sound. You can get an idea of what it’s like from the manufacturer’s website.

The funny part is that, since I have a penchant for playing avant garde electronic music, both Janice and Olivia thought they were hearing music coming from my office. “Yeah, we heard something strange, but we thought it was you.” And they didn’t pay it any more attention.

Footnote: A student worker asked my boss if I “just play video games all day” because of the sounds emanating from my office. For the record, I don’t play video games at all. It’s music, damn it!

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