It was an ordinary night. The dogs had been walked and fed, the kid had been collected from football practice and fed, and the husband was (still) living 90 miles away laboring for The Man. (Heh to sarazarr.) (The Man in this case being the big search engine company moguls building new facilities in The Dalles and driving up real estate prices there.)
I set my alarm for 5 a.m., excited to get at my revisions bright and early! I want these revisions to shine so the Dream Agent in Question phones me to shout, “Yes! Yes! You are brilliant and pithy … no, pithy, not pretty. No, I didn’t mean you’re not pretty … um, yes, I’m sure you are … but I’m trying to tell you …” And then she can clutch her head and reconsider, while bemoaning my addiction to ellipses.
I slid into sleep blessed with blissful ignorance of the impending plunder of my slumber - no doubt dreaming happy revisional dreams - when a loud beep from somewhere in the house jolted me upright. I stumbled around in the dark, blinking and peering at various smoke detectors. They all blinked back at me innocently.
At 2:38 in the morning, I don’t think very coherently, so I went back to bed … telling myself that it probably would not happen again.
Twenty minutes later I was bolt upright again, fumbling into the hallway, where I was pretty sure the beep had come from. The dogs were enjoying my middle-of-the-night activities, no doubt hoping I might decide it was a good time for walkies!
I stood there looking up the smoke detector for a couple of minutes, then down at the carbon monoxide detector, plugged into the wall.
No doubt the carbon monoxide detector’s proximity led to my bleary belief that it must be the culprit.
Oh, honey. Your throbbing intelligence is such a heavy burden, isn’t it?
I tossed the carbon monoxide detector onto a bookshelf in my room and fell back into bed.
At about 3:20, I dragged a chair into the hallway to climb up and stare sadly at the smoke detector. I still wasn’t sure that THIS wretched appliance was the cause of the beeping. The tiny door behind which the battery lived flummoxed me. It appeared to need a tiny Phillips head screwdriver in order to gain access.
I sat down on the chair to wait, thinking I would confirm the source of the [bad word] beeping before I attempted further problem-solving.
The dogs lay down and went back to sleep.
Time dribbled and limped and became a prison of hard chair/empty hallway.
Nothin’. For the love of GOD, why can’t things beep during the day? Or come with a little button to re-set the beeping for a few hours later?
“Maybe it’s done,” I thought in a spurt of weary optimism.
I went back to bed.
I grabbed my pillow and headed downstairs, accompanied by the hopeful dogs. I grabbed a blanket and lay down on the couch.
It was now about 4:15. Thinking of the alarm I had set to go off at 5, I rose again to go turn it off, then went back downstairs to set the oven timer for 6 a.m. No revisions this morning.
At 6:30 I woke up my son (!) to get ready for school.
DH starts work at 7, and I really wanted to relate my nocturnal adventures, but he had forgotten his cell phone at home, so I couldn’t call him.
Or could I?
He’d given me his boss’s cell phone number in case I needed to reach him.
Well, I needed to reach him!
“Can we talk about this after work?” he asked. “And I don’t think it needs a screwdriver. Just unplug it from the wires first, then open the little door.” (Yes, these super special, super efficient smoke detectors are hard-wired to the electricity. Because, you know, we want to be super safe!)
“I’ll take care of the damn battery later,” I thought.
Oh, my friends. It’s so not over.
I navigated the work-day, adjusting my caffeine levels as needed. I picked up Cole from school and drove home, so he could have a quick snack before football practice.
… greeted me as I opened the door.
As my tale grows ever more tedious, I will skip the chair-schlepping, the unpluggings and repluggings (no screwdriver needed), and the hush-button pushing.
Wait. What the --? Now it was chirping! And even more horrifying … I could still hear eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
I walked into my bedroom, where it sounded more like eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
It was a din! It was shrill, it was ear-splitting! It was … it was loud.
Again, let’s skip ahead to me locating DH’s earphones in the garage, schlepping the chair to my room, and contemplating the screaming smoke detector.
“Okay,” I thought. “I guess I need to change this one’s battery, too. Probably because they’re wired together, so if one is unhappy, the other one is, too. Or something.”
More unpluggings and repluggings and button-pushing.
Every nerve in my body screamed along with the smoke detector, so I had to go downstairs. Pepper was shadowing me, shivering and shedding. The other dog hid in the family room.
In the kitchen, I almost couldn’t hear it. I located a half-empty box of soothing Junior Mints while I pondered.
“I’ll call D,” I thought. He’s my neighbor across the street.
D came over and spent time unplugging, replugging, and button-pushing.
“I’m going to shut off the breaker!” I told him. “If we can’t figure out what’s wrong, at least I can shut off the power until DH gets home.”
Five flipped breakers later:
“How can this be?” asked D, bewildered. “It’s like the sound is coming from the wires! Or the attic! Do you want me to crawl up into the attic?”
D went home, and I admit it: I hosted a pity party, crying in frustration.
All of a sudden, it was simply UNBEARABLE that DH lives away from us during the week. I was not understanding or flexible or self-sufficient ANYMORE. I wanted that sound to stop and I wanted my husband THE ELECTRICIAN to fix it. I was DONE.
I considered calling:
The fire department
The electric company
The reservation desk at a hotel
Instead I closed all of the upstairs doors (in the dark – see flipped breakers) and went to pick up Cole.
At 7:40 DH finally
“How are you?”
He had forgotten the Crisis of the Smoke Detectors.
“Not good,” I said. I walked upstairs and held the phone up. After I described the measures taken to solve this electronic banshee, he said, “Just shut off the breaker.”
“I did. There’s almost no power upstairs.”
“Well, take a hammer to it, then.”
“The smoke detector.”
“The smoke detector is not attached to anything anymore.”
“The sound is coming from the wires.”
“What?! That can’t be. All right, I’m coming home. I’ll be there in 90 minutes.”
It was quite possibly the happiest I’ve ever been to see that man in all the years I’ve known him.
He checked the breaker panel in the garage, flipping back on the ones that could have nothing to do with the problem. He headed upstairs while I went to get the flashlight.
Wow, the sound was getting louder!
Wait. What the --? Why did it sound like it was coming down the stairs?
DH held out the carbon monoxide detector (which had been sitting on the shelf below the smoke detector), and unplugged the battery.
While I was groveling and apologizing that he had just driven 90 miles home and would have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to drive 90 miles back, he hugged me and said, “That’s okay. I could hear in your voice that you were done.”