Sire Newsletter-November 2001
home we bought a year ago in downtown Huntington is relatively new, built in
’99 I think, so, as per today’s stringent fire codes, it has around 72 smoke
detectors in it, give or take ten or twenty. Unlike the kind you might buy at
Target, these babies are hardwired into the electrical system. I thought this
meant they didn’t have batteries, but, as I discovered about midnight the
other night, they do.
It started with a cute little chirp. And then about a minute later, another
one, and then a minute later, another one. I waited for the chirping to wake Roe
up, so she could share in my agitation, but, of course, it didn’t. (If
you’re a regular reader of this newsletter you know it takes more of a KABOOM,
KABOOM, KABOOM to awaken it?
There were three detectors in the immediate vicinity: One at the very peak of
the cathedral ceiling in our bedroom, about 15 feet up, one in the hall just off
our bedroom and another in the main hallway. Luckily, the one doing all the
complaining turned out to be the one in the bedroom hall that I could easily
reach by standing on a chair. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I
unplugged the detector from the electrical system, set it on the dresser and
hopped back into bed.
Roe hadn’t moved a muscle. Okay, well, that was a pain, I thought, but, hey,
stuff happens. But then, just as I was dozing off to wonder wonderland, there it
was again, chirp—chirp—chirp. How could it be chirping? I had disconnected
it from the electricity. I turned on the light, got out of bed again and picked
up the detector. This is when I discovered it had a battery, so I removed it,
and put the detector back on the dresser and rolled back into to bed, trying my
best to wake up beauty, but to no avail—maybe, I thought, if I stuffed one of
the batteries up her nose she’d wake up.
A few minutes later, unbelievably, there it was again—chirp—chirp—chirp.
How could it still be chirping when it wasn’t plugged into the electrical
system anymore, and it had no battery? This was a pretty fantastic smoke
I turned on the light again, got out of bed, and grabbed the detector off the
dresser. I stood there in middle of the night, waiting for the son-of-a-gun to
chirp, and, after about a minute, by golly it did. I couldn’t believe
too tired and aggravated to try and figure out how a smoke detector can chirp
without any power supply, I took it into the den at the rear of the house and
stuffed it in the back of a desk drawer.
next morning I asked Roe to get the handyman over and to replace the
batteries in all the smoke detectors in the house. I told her that if the one at
the peak of the cathedral ceiling ever started chirping in middle of the night,
we’d (I don’t know why I said WE, since she doesn’t even wake up) really
be in trouble because I didn’t think I would be able to reach it, even with
the ladder we had.
The next day she got the handyman over and he completed the job. But, at 2 a.m.,
a few nights later, it happened again—chirp—chirp—chirp. I felt like I was
in Hitchcock’s horror movie, “The Birds.” I lay motionless, listening to
determine from whence the chirping came. But I couldn’t tell which one was
chirping, so I got up and stood under the smoke detectors waiting for the
telltale tweet. I had to ascertain which one it was.
don’t let it be the one at the top of the cathedral ceiling I prayed. I waited
and waited for a chirp. There was none. Hey, I must have been dreaming I
concluded as I slid cautiously back into bed. But no sooner had my head hit the
pillow than the relentless little chirp stabbed at the cool night air yet again.
I got up again and stood and waited patiently, and there it was—chirp: It was
the one I had prayed it wasn’t.
What to do? The four foot ladder was downstairs in the garage.
the not-so-tall guy that I am, I didn’t think I would be able to reach the
detector, but I had to give it a try. I got the ladder and hauled it upstairs. I
stood on the very top step, the one that warns you it is not a step—and almost
fell off and broke my neck. But this was good, I now had a legitimate excuse to
awaken the beauty.
beauty was conscious she became her normal self: annoyed. She looked at the
clock and asked me what in the world I was doing on a ladder reaching for the
cathedral ceiling in middle of our bedroom at 3 o’clock in the morning.
“Praising the Lord,” I said.
“Never mind,” I said. “I thought you had the handyman replace all the
batteries in all the smoke detectors?”
“I did.” She replied.
“Did you see him do this one?” I asked.
“Well, no.” she said. “Not exactly. But I know he did it.”
“Just get out of bed and help balance me on this ladder, so I don’t fall
I was just able to reach the detector by standing on my toes on the top step,
the one I told you about that is clearly marked, “this is not a step.” I
twisted the detector off the ceiling, unplugged it, and got down. It kept right
on chirping. I removed the battery and, true to form, it kept right on chirping.
I stuck it in the same desk drawer down the hall where I had put the other one
and it kept right on chirping.
The next morning I called the 66-year-old handyman, who we have known for twenty
years and who has become a good friend of ours. When I described to him, in
great detail, about the chirping problem, he just started laughing. I had never
heard him laugh so hard in all the time I’d known him. I looked over at Roe
and she was laughing too, real hard. No way, I thought. No chirping way.
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