Every floor in this building has at least 4 bomb shelters or “safe rooms”. The floors, walls and ceilings are of thick reinforced concrete. The door is a steel blast-proof thing that could never be closed by any man over the age of about 30 and in good shape. Instructions from the management is very clear: on the hearing of the air-raid siren, all residents should immediately stop whatever they are doing – if anything – and walk – not run – to the nearest shelter on your floor. It’s so simple you don’t ever have to think about it, not matter what speed you are still thinking at.
I am the honorary Goldenager in charge of the shelter which adjoins our apartment. So at about 11pm on the first night of the war when my wife, who is my assistant in all matters related to hearing, suddenly yelled “there’s the siren!” I ran next door, disobeying the “never run” rule, and closed the steel window which is left open in peaceful times to allow pigeons and smaller birds access to the shelter. I waited a few minutes in case any of our neighbors needed help making it to the shelter but no one arrived, so I went back home to watch the TV which was featuring the war on all channels.
A few minutes later we heard the most horrendous screeching. I rushed out into the corridor and found 99 year old Yehuda coming along in front of the racket. He was pushing his walker which has lost the left rear tennis ball and was scraping along the ceramic tile floor. Yehuda, of course, couldn’t hear the noise. His ears stopped working when he was in his early 80s. He was closely followed by Shimon, the chap at the end of the corridor who wears huge blackout glasses and uses a white cane which makes irritating noises as he taps his way along. I once asked him if he sees anything at all and he grunted “sometimes”. They both stopped at the entrance to the shelter. The threshold has a small step of 1 or 2 centimeters. Yehuda’s ball-less walker snagged on the step and Yehuda froze. Shimon’s stick, too, caught on the step and I watched as he began a tapping up the walls to check how high the step was.
A few more residents in various stages of night-dress wandered in, looked around, said “no chairs” and wandered off again. War is hell.