Christine's Blog

Smoke Alarm Hell

It started on Christmas Eve. Those seemingly innocent white disks attached to the ceiling started messing with me. For some reason (probably a building code put in place by some genius whose house had burned down as a child) the builder placed 8 of these possessed smoke alarms around my small, 1,400 sq. ft. one-story house. Seems like over-kill to me. 

For years, every freakin Thanksgiving when I toasted bread for stuffing, the damn things went off. Then I formulated elaborate steps to thwart off the demon alarms: the exhaust fan must be set to high, the kitchen window opened, the ceiling fan whirling furiously, and each time I removed the pan of toasted bread from the broiler, I must huff like I’m giving CPR to an elephant until I become so light-headed that my vision narrows and I see stars, all while hopping on one foot. (Ok, I threw in the foot hopping for effect.) 

I have never been able to just blow out a candle, no, no! I must put a lid over it to snuff out the flame, lest a small tentacle of smoke escape and get sucked up into the deranged, white disks. I swear there were a few potent dog farts (Kyra’s) that set off the C02 detector. So, I think I’ve made my point: those fucking things are too sensitive. 

Back to Christmas Eve. Mark and I return home from our most important Christmas errand: buying wine at the liquor store. As we enter the house I hear the dreaded CHIRP! Now I realize not everyone has the same reaction to this particular sound. So I will explain what that chirp sound does to me. Imagine a demon riding a sharp object, like a knitting needle or an ice pick, into your eyeball or ear and traveling to the center of your brain, then spinning like a blender, assassinating every brain cell in it’s path, brain cells that I cannot afford to lose! And my dogs, Kyra and Abbey, feel exactly the same, just increase the reaction by ten thousand million percent. Abby shakes like a she’s having a seizure, and she’d crawl right up my butt if I let her. Kyra pants and whines and paces like a lion at the zoo before dinner. 

It is apparent that the chirping started while we were gone, because as soon as I step into the house Abby attaches herself to me like velcro, and Kyra whines and weaves through my legs like a blue ribbon winner at an agility dog show. I watch Mark’s eyes roll back in his head because he knows this has become his problem. He has 3 frantic females (1 human, 2 dogs) counting on him to fix this. Quickly. 

All four of us stand in the hallway glaring up at the evil entity. The smoke alarm light on the right is flashing green, but the CO2 alarm on the left is flashing it’s evil red eye. I look down at Kyra and wonder if she released one of her infamous lethal farts. I sniff; the air holds only the faint scent of peppermint from the Christmas candle I had burned earlier. Then another shrill chirp sends the dogs to the far corners of the earth and I kiss a few more of my brain cells goodbye.  

Mark grabs the step stool and presses the re-set button. And we wait. Silence. I continue to stare at the evil red light with a wary eye, but miraculously the chirping stops! Even as the silence continues, I am unconvinced that the problem has been solved because that damn red light keeps flashing. Then I hear the pop of a wine cork and my attention shifts. My husband does know how to fix things! 

The night passes uneventfully with no further chirping…..until Christmas morning....at 5 am. CHIRP!!! When you’re in a deep sleep, that chirp is magnified. Unless you are Mark and can sleep right through it. I fly out of bed, press the reset button, and try my best to calm Abbey who is shaking so badly that our is bed vibrating like magic fingers in cheap motel. (Mark continues to snore peacefully) The next chirp comes about 8 am, Mark says he has no idea what can be done on a holiday; he will try to replace it tomorrow. That is not an acceptable solution. I decide to call the fire department, they should know about smoke alarms. Right? 

After wishing the firefighter a Merry Christmas and apologizing for such a lame reason to call, I recount my smoke alarm hell. He is very kind and patiently tells me that either the battery needs to be changed (we had just changed the batteries in October) or the smoke alarm needs to be replaced. He also gives me confusing directions on how to disconnect the alarm, which, because of my destroyed brain cells, I am unable to decipher. We decide to change the battery. But the ominous red light still flashes, mocking me, letting me know that this is not over. 

December 26 @ 0800, the attack resumes. CHIRP!!! I’m instantly on my feet, adrenaline pumping, dogs hanging out of my butt. Mark is at work, and I am determined to disconnect that wretched alarm. I pull out the step stool, which is tall enough for me to stand on tippy-toes and push the rest button, but not tall enough to allow me to reach the base and unscrew it from the ceiling. I need the ladder in the garage. 

Mark loves to “organize” stuff, especially in the garage. His idea of organization is to put everything up as high as it can go. The step ladder hangs on a peg a few inches from the ceiling. I can barely reach the bottom rung. Of course, my car is parked beside the ladder, further complicating the maneuver. I must have been a contortionist in another life because I manage to release the ladder from the peg without inflicting bodily harm on myself or my car. I carry it into the house and place it beneath the smoke alarm. 

What I find confuses me further. I’m staring up into a circular hole filled with a tangle of wires attached to small white caps. I have no idea how to disconnect it. Mark won’t be home for several hours and I’m so frustrated that I could start chirping myself! Then it comes to me: cut the circuit breaker. It takes a few tries but eventually I find the right one. Success! Power cut! Then I slip out the battery, anxious to see the corpse hanging from the ceiling, finally silent, lights no longer flashing. 

Wrong! That possessed disk was still flashing! “How is this even possible,” I yell! Then I think about a Friends episode where Phoebe tries to disconnect a chirping smoke alarm and ends up smashing it with a hammer, and still that thing kept flashing and chirping. At least a hunky firefighter appears in her apartment, that does not happen to me. But I haven’t heard any chirping since I tripped the circuit breaker.

I decide to take a break and open my laptop when I discover that my wifi is on the same circuit as the omnipotent smoke alarm. That will not do, so I reluctantly turn it back on and hope for the best. Before giving up I eye that piece of crap one more time. Wait…what’s this? On the backside of my nemesis is a small plug. I can just unplug it? How did I miss this? I release a small latch and pull, “Die you sucker!”  Ha, I win! No more chirping. No more flashing lights! I can feel my brain cells regenerating

One alarm down….seven to go.