In the middle of the night last night I was awoken by a very loud voice repeating over and over to GET OUT OF THE HOTEL IMMEDIATELY. Fire alarm! I’m on the top floor, but fortunately there are only eight. Sleep-numb, I stagger to the closet and pull on some clothes and grope for shoes. I think to grab my room key (but not my purse, my passport) as I go out the door, joining all the others looking for the stairs, and then following the stream of people going down and down and down. I wish I had my camera then to click the spiral of stairs, all the hands on the rails. Or my video to capture the erie sound of all the feet on cement, but no voices, everyone in earnest, just getting out. I sniff the air: no smoke.

Outside, we stand around, groggy with sleep and zinging with adrenalin. David Sedaris, also on book tour, is staying at this same hotel. I wonder if he is in this crowd, thinking funny thoughts. Fire trucks arrive but nothing happens. False alarm. Everyone staggers back to their rooms. I make a note for the future: to have my essentials right by the door.