When the power went out, I sat there, holding my breath, waiting to see if the generator would do what it was supposed to do. Within a few short seconds, I heard a click, and everything started to run again – the TV, my computer, the fridge. I was excited. All of the hassle and expense of having the generator installed had been worth it – except maybe for my lawn, which still looks as if a meteor shower struck it, thanks to 110-foot-long trench that had to be dug for the gas line.
After the power came back on at about 3:00 in the morning, and the generator shut off, the smoke detectors began to chirp. There are eight in my house, all wired together, with battery back-ups, so when one has something wrong with it, the rest get sympathy pains and also start chirping, taking turns. The exception is the detector in the basement, which talks. So instead of chirping, it shouts, “Low battery! Low battery!” in a robot-like, very nasally female voice.
Believe me, trying to sleep with, “Chirp! Chirp! Low battery! Low battery!” filling the house every 40 seconds (I counted), was worse than any torture imaginable. Grumbling, I finally climbed out of bed, dug my battery tester out of the junk drawer and went from detector to detector, checking each battery. They all tested fine.
“Chirp! Chirp! Low battery! Low battery!”
That’s when I remembered the detector out in the garage. I had completely overlooked that one.
So there I was, in my pajamas at 4:00 in the morning, out in the garage, staring up at the detector which was beyond my reach even when I stood on the highest thing I am willing to stand on – a kitchen chair. I eyed the aluminum ladder in the garage and debated whether or not I had the courage to climb it. The first problem, however, was what to lean it against, seeing that the detector is located on a beam in the very center of the garage.
I came up with the brilliant idea of moving my car and leaning the ladder against that.
Slowly I climbed up one rung, then two, then three. By the fourth one, I was becoming lightheaded. I reached up to open the detector to check the battery. That’s when the ladder started to slide sideways and I lost my balance. Fortunately, I landed on my feet – with the entire smoke detector in my hand.
I stared at the wires hanging out of it. “This can’t be good,” I muttered.
For the next four hours, I sat listening to “Chirp! Chirp! Low battery! Low battery!” I was tempted to call an electrician, but I knew I'd probably be charged triple if I woke up the guy...so I waited.
Not only was I on the verge of losing what little sanity I had left, the dogs, because they have sensitive ears, whined and drooled every time they heard the chirps. I had to follow them around with a mop.
I swear, if I’d have had a gun, all of the detectors would have looked like Swiss cheese. Finally, at 8:00 a.m., I called an electrician and begged for help.
“Well, it will cost you $79 just for someone to come out there,” the guy said. “And then it’s $90 an hour. Oh, and tell me the brand of the detector you broke, so we can replace it. Does that sound OK to you?”
“Fine,” I said.
By then, I would have donated a kidney to the guy, just to get the detectors to shut up.
The electrician arrived in less than hour and immediately replaced the detector in the garage. The chirping continued. He removed the detector in the laundry room. The chirping continued. He removed the detectors in the three bedrooms, my office and the hallway.
“Chirp! Chirp! Low battery! Low battery!”
“All of that chirping makes me feel like strangling a bird,” I said to him.
He laughed. Finally, he went down to the basement. The detector down there is different – it’s for carbon monoxide. He pushed the red button on it. The chirping stopped.
“You just needed to press the reset button on this one after the power failure,” he said.
I glared at him. “You’re telling me I stayed awake all night testing batteries, nearly breaking my neck, wiping up drool, being driven crazy by chirping, and destroying the detector in the garage...and all I had to do was press a crummy reset button?”
“Yep! That will be $215.”
I swear, I’m seriously considering moving into an apartment.