No alarms and no surprises


Living in a fairly affluent suburb of Cape Town and with the perception of crime being so very high, especially amongst those who live in fairly affluent suburbs of Cape Town, we are surrounded by houses with a range of high-tech security systems, many of which regularly remind us of their existence for no reason whatsoever. This is not a solely South African phenomenon, but South African burglar alarms are the only ones I can hear from my house. Because my house is in South Africa, you see?
False alarms aren’t just very, very annoying; they also reduce the efficacy of everyone else’s alarm systems – including mine. My first instinct when I hear a burglar alarm sounding now is “grr”, rather than “oh, someone is being burgled, I wonder if I can help them*” and I would imagine that I am far from alone in that approach. Rather than being concerned at the potential predicament of my neighbour, I try and blot the noise out as soon as possible and get on with my life.

Fortunately, alarms sounding during the night are pretty few and far between. The majority of them are in the early morning, as people get up and wander, bleary-eyed downstairs into the path of the sentinel PIR in the hallway or – as I have previously mentioned – on sunny weekend afternoons when I want to braai and play in the pool in peace.

Compare and contrast this with dogs, nature’s own useless burglar alarms, which are liberally spread around gardens in the neighbourhood. Unlike electronic security systems, dogs tend to sound at all hours of the day and night and, in an additional poke in the ear for anyone trying to do anything so silly as sleep during the night, set off a canine chain reaction. Inconsiderate dog owners will claim that Biggles the beagle will let them know if there’s someone in their yard. And they’re probably correct. However, Biggles will also inform them if a car drives past their front gate, a rat runs through their shrubbery or if there is a breeze which makes the tree across the road move – all through the power of the bark. In addition, Biggles is acutely tuned to bark loudly should he hear any other dog bark loudly. And so it goes.

My reaction to hearing the alarmed barking of a neighbour’s dog is subtly different to hearing a burglar alarm sound. When I hear a dog barking, I actually find myself hoping that there is an intruder on those premises and he is going to steal the dog. And quickly.

We are forever getting communications from the security company that monitor our alarm, asking us to please avoid false alarms: it wastes their time, their time is their money, and their money comes from us**. But it seems that, despite the hysteria and the drama over crime in South Africa, I’m the only one that reads such communications.
Ironically, if our alarm does go off, the security company staff refuse to come onto the premises until they are told that we don’t have a dog. Biggles evidently has a reputation for chewing patrolmen.

I’m tempted to suggest that people think there is a sort of herd immunity here. Everyone has an alarm, but no-one take any notice when an alarm goes off. Some people have a dog, but no-one takes any notice when a dog barks. 
Sadly, the burglars are rather more adept (in most cases) than your average virus and they are also aware of this.
And so, thank to the false alarms and Biggles et al, we’ll keep on paying. 

* The house owners, rather than the burglars.
** In fact, looking at it another way, we’re already being robbed by them.

8 thoughts on “No alarms and no surprises

  1. Gotta say, at my folks place…I always get up and check when the dogs bark. Most people couldn’t be bovvered though.

    The alarm story is true. There’s one going off down the road right now. For the fifth time today.

    Goblin´s last blog post was: The proper MPH ‘09 and Top Gear Live Post (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  2. No such luck over here! I can never hear the dogs barking or alarms going off! I just tend to be woken by people warming their cars up by revving the tits off them for a bit Grrrr

    Wiggy´s last blog post was: Back to the gym.. (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  3. Moats with crocodiles and piranhas. And snakes on the balustrades. Silent but violent. It’s the only way.

    Po´s last blog post was: Tales of two cities. (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  4. Radiohead fan by any chance?

    Something we don’t suffer from – alarms… but I do remember what it was like living in London.

    Car alarms, building alarms, office alarms. Not to mention that we were on a main thoroughfare with the Notting Hill police station on one side and the Fire station on the other and emergency vehicles’ sirens going back and forth all day and night!

    BTW, in just over a month we’ll be ‘visiting’ you in CT. Really looking forward to it! Our hotel is is Milnerton with a view of the mountain and the bay.

    DelBoy´s last blog post was: Hot, hot, hot! (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  5. Goblin > The dogs are only barking at other dogs barking.

    Wiggy > Isn’t that you?

    Po > Wouldn’t the crocodies eat the piranhas, though? And probably not really a safe option to have snakes around whith kids in the house.

    DelBoy > But you don’t sleep because of the heat! 🙂
    I lived near the hospital in Oxford and it was super noisy with sirens.
    P.S. Sure you’ve got a front facing room? Otherwise, it’s Cape Town’s fetid industrial heartland for you…

  6. Yeah something like that HAHA! Having a car with a large exhaust must annoy them when I pull it at 3am after a night out, when i’ve acted as taxi driver for my mates, and had them buy me soft drinks all night haha

    Wiggy´s last blog post was: Losing on penalties = Gutting!! (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

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