For two evenings this week I was present when emergency alarms were sounded.
Emergency no. 1
Monday night's was spectacular - and also quite funny. As I waited at a c-c-cold bus stop, a 71 pulled up, and a guy with a HUGE package got on. The bus driver took one look and refused to let the guy travel on the bus.
Driver: "That's too big. You can't come on here."
Guy (wearing earphones): "What?"
Driver: "It's too big."
Driver: "You can't come on the bus."
Guy (still wearing earphones, and now having touched in with his Oyster card to pay the fare): "What?"
Driver (very loudly): "It's too big!"
Guy (eventually taking earphones out): "What?"
Driver: "That's too big. You have to get off the bus."
Guy: "But I've paid!"
Driver: "You still have to get off the bus."
Guy: "But I've taken this on other buses."
Driver: "You're not bringing it on this bus."
(and more of the same for at least another five minutes - driver refusing to let him stay, guy refusing to get off)
Bus (yes, honestly!): "This bus is under attack! Please call 999!"
(and the same message for at least a further five minutes - driver sitting with his arms folded, guy refusing to get off, bus asking for help)
Two police cars hare up with sirens blazing. Where's the fight??! The bus driver explained. The police couldn't quite believe it and checked with me twice that nothing else had happened. The guy STILL refused to get off the bus… for several more minutes… amazing! But eventually he got off, the police zoomed off somewhere more exciting, and my K2 bus arrived.
Great fun.But the thing that really struck me was how people reacted to the bus alarm. "This bus is under attack! Please call 999." It was serious. Very loud. And non-stop for five minutes. And no one did anything.
I had prime view of it all, so knew there was no danger - but that wasn't true for the many people passing by on the pavement OR the people on the top deck of the bus. Nobody stopped (except to stare). No one tried to help. No one got off the bus in case they weren't safe. Pretty much everyone presumed it was a false alarm - didn't mean anything - and just carried on with whatever they were doing. Interesting…
Emergency no. 2
The previous night also included an emergency alarm. Like many of you, we had our carol service. It was terrific in every way - brilliant atmosphere, fantastic music, great mix of traditional and modern, thoroughly Bible-centred, and a wonderful opportunity to praise and thank God for the gift of his Son.
The message came from John 1, about Jesus "the Word" and "the true light", and our need to receive Him. It wasn't blaring out of a bus's speakers - but it was an emergency alarm just the same. The call was clear - to investigate, to find out, before it's too late.
And I find myself wondering: did any more people take that message seriously than the one about the bus? I hope and pray they did…