Smoked Out

Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, kids.

Last night, while trying to enjoy a nice evening at home reading, watching TV and not getting drunk (a far cry difference from the previous three evenings), I ended up dealing with a little house drama that made me wonder, momentarily, if the reason my house was so cheap was because it’s haunted. I could probably google something about it, but who has that kind of time.

Let me ask, then, what you think the odds are that several of the smoke detectors in my house could run out of battery juice at the exact same moment? In hindsight and after further investigation it appears that my smoke detectors are on some form of system. Good to know after living here for two years.

I was chillaxing on a chair in my living room when I heard the first beep. (Side note, I love how chillaxing is apparently a word now as my spell check has not bothered to suggest this particular portmanteau is still too ridiculous for reality.) It was that quick beep that kind of says “change me, fool” but also says “I was kind of hoping this would be a terrible time for you.” It actually wasn’t. I mean, I was just sitting around in my underwear reading Amy Poehler’s new book on my iPad while SNL reruns blared on in the background. I wasn’t sleeping or trying to get anything of import done.

About thirty seconds later it beeped again.

The first one actually kind of startled me. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the smoke detector or my security alarm as the noise was in the vicinity of both. The second beep confirmed the culprit was indeed in the smoke alarm. And of course, it was the exact most difficult one to change, nestled at the highest point of my vaulted ceiling. Fun.

I figured the best course of action was to ignore it until the following day when I would be more interested in determining how to get up there. My interest in putting on pants was likely to be higher in the daylight as well. Alas, I would have no choice but to move from my front living room to the couch in my back living room to continue my slothery back there.

And then I saw Radley.

Now, let me tell you something about my dog. She is generally quite fearless. She has picked fights with pitbulls, mastiffs, german shepherds and any number of vicious dogs that tower over her. The doorbell turns her into a murderous barkbeast, and she will courageously do battle with any cat, squirrel, person, child or cactus that comes near her. When she gets a shot or blood drawn her face suggests the words “Thank you, sir, may I have another.” Bitch is fearless.

Well, almost fearless.

Two beeps from this drained smoke detector sent her cowering under the dining room table. She’s not a hider. She’s always all up in anyone’s business, whether it’s me or any visitor. She’s a people pooch. She hangs around where the action is. Unless there’s a high-pitched beep.

I got down to make sure I was understanding the situation. Maybe her ball was under there. Or some food fell, even though I’ve only eaten at that table like six times in two years.

She was shaking. Shivering. It was a little disconcerting because she had just had a seizure a couple weeks back and we are still trying to figure out that one so I also had to make sure this wasn’t connected to that. I gently pulled her out and her legs stiffened to try and prevent it. I cradled her in my arms tightly, protectively. Clearly, this beep would have to be taken care of sooner rather than later. I didn’t have any 9-volt batteries, this I knew. But maybe if I could at least unhook it, it wouldn’t frighten the pups.

I rallied. I found my pants. I found shoes I could wear without putting socks on. I headed for the garage. The only ladder I had tall enough to reach the device was my 28’ tall outdoor ladder that I bought on a whim because I had a second story window that had bird shit on it I wanted to wipe off. I’ve used it maybe three times since then, the best time being when I climbed on my roof in order to watch the blood moon. My garage has no lights. In two years, I haven’t really needed them so I don’t have them. I tend to deal with the problems right in front of me vs. the more preventative ones (see above re: smoke detectors). I shined my phone flashlight to get the general area of the ladder. Miraculously, there was a clear path it. Sure, that path was fraught with deadly spiders I’m sure, as my garage tended to be just one big web some days. I couldn’t hold the phone for light and use my other two hands to carry the ladder because, well, you do the math. So I hauled the ladder out in darkness, trying not to get bit or hit my car in the driveway.

I managed to get the ladder into my living room without even bumping a wall (another miracle) and carefully angled it up to the smoke detector. I thought for a minute that I should maybe call and tell my girlfriend or someone what I was doing so that when I eventually fell and broke my leg someone would notice before the following day. But I didn’t.

I gently creeped up the ladder as the beep got louder. Taunting me. I couldn’t reach it from the step I was most comfortable on, so I took one more step up as the ladder trembled a little. I’m afraid of heights, but I didn’t consider this high. Up here, I was merely afraid of breaking an ankle or two as that is a somewhat likely scenario. I did make a plan that if the ladder fell I would aim myself for the big fluffy chair below. I probably wouldn’t crack my skull that way.

I yanked out the smoke detector from the chords in the ceiling and slowly made my way down the ladder. Success. I opened it up and pulled out the battery.

“No more beeping, chicken!” I shouted, because I sometimes call my dog Chicken. I don’t remember why.

I plopped down in the chair with her. Crisis averted. I was the hero I never get to be in my outside the house life. I felt unconquerable. Then I heard another beep. I figured this was coming from the battery-less smoke detector because it is a common phenomenon that this thing will continue to make noise well beyond when the thing that powers it dies. They even did a terrible episode of Friends with that exact plot.

But the beeping wasn’t coming from the smoke detector I had just freed. It was coming from the other room. I walked into the hallway and listened. Another beep. It was in the office. This one was a lot easier to get. I jumped up and grabbed this smoke detector, twisting it enough so that it was dangling by the power chords in its back. Then I could reach up with both hands to separate it. Success part 2. I’m a god.

I went to the kitchen and again liberated the dying battery from the chest of the device. I may have pretended I was Jason Bourne defusing a bomb. I know he never really did that, but hey it’s in my head. Don’t worry about it.

Then I heard another beep.

Are you fucking kidding me?

The new beep was close by. In the hallway. And this low ceiling meant I could reach with just a stretch and pull it down. I suddenly became aware that I had WAY too many smoke detectors in this house. And it was after this third one that I became mildly aware that there was somewhat of a connection between all these incidents. I wasn’t going to be dealing with this all night. This was war.

I grabbed my keys and wallet and walked up to the closest store that would have batteries. Thankfully, it wasn’t yet 9pm so that meant I could hit the Radio Shack a block away from my house and I wouldn’t have to deal with driving anywhere. I bought 24 9-volt batteries, enough to cover all of the devices in my house and leave some spares.

It is now fifteen hours later and there has been nary a beep since then. The ladder might still be in the middle of my floor, but overall I’m proud that I was given a problem I could assess and solve with relative ease and that I could allow my dog a safe haven she could return to protecting.

A success is a success, regardless of degrees.

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