It’s surprising to me that after owning this house for more than three years, there are still many things I don’t know. With any luck, any things I don’t know will be only small issues and that I’m not overlooking anything major. Still, there are new things to learn rather frequently. Although it has nothing to do with the house itself, I’m continuing to learn how to take care of a yard, and that could be a lifelong endeavor.

But even in the house itself, there are still things to learn, most recently, the doorbell. The original doorbell that is wired into the house doesn’t work, and a previous owner set up a wireless doorbell right above the defunct one. Delivery people generally press the old bell instead of the new one when leaving a package, so I’m used to listening for noises on my porch rather than waiting for a ring. The other day, a couple of friends came to visit. I didn’t hear the doorbell, but I did heard scuffling outside the door, so I went to let them in. I mentioned about not using the defunct doorbell, but they said they rang the new one.

I pushed the button, and sure enough, the doorbell didn’t work. (It’s not that I disbelieved them, it’s that I wanted to see the problem for myself.) Thinking that maybe the outlet the chime was plugged into wasn’t working, I plugged it into a different outlet. Still didn’t work.

I shrugged it off, thinking maybe it was time to get a new doorbell, but my friends thought perhaps there was a battery that needed to be replaced. There wasn’t a battery in the chime part, and there was no easy way to check the doorbell itself, so we ripped it off the doorframe. My friend managed to open it, and sure enough, there was a battery. Luckily I had the right battery (one of those nickel-sized batteries) as well as some thick two-sided tape to replace the now-working doorbell.

It just goes to show how few people come to visit because I have no idea how long the doorbell hasn’t been working. Obviously, it wasn’t a major issue, but still, it did surprise me that there was one more battery to replace that I didn’t know about. I knew about smoke alarms, of course, and I quickly learned about the thermostat battery and the carbon monoxide battery. The low-battery chirping from the carbon monoxide detector came on it the middle of the night once, and since it sounded exactly like the smoke alarms, I got up and changed the batteries on all the smoke alarms, and still that annoying sound kept me awake. I don’t remember how it finally dawned on me to check the carbon monoxide detector, but I do remember unplugging it from the outlet. Blessed release! I went back to sleep, and I am ashamed to admit that I never replaced the battery and put that detector back. I know how important it is, but I get tired of always changing batteries. Maybe someday . . . Or even better, right now. (Okay, I did it; the carbon monoxide detector is plugged in again.)

It makes me wonder if there will be more surprises. I know there will be problems like appliances that need repair, pipes that will freeze (though I do leave a faucet dripping when the temperatures dip too low in the winter) and any number of other things. (I’ve already had someone come deal with a toilet ring seal that needed to be replaced, a washer that wouldn’t spin, pipe malfunctions, and various other breakdowns.) But surely, after all this time, there aren’t any more hidden batteries or other house details for me to be aware of.

If there are, I suppose I’ll learn about them the same way I’ve learned about everything else — when they stop working.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Always Some Excitement

There’s always some excitement when one owns a house. This morning, it was the infernal chirping that sounded as if the smoke alarm in my hallway needed attention. I changed the batteries even though I had changed all the batteries in the alarms just a month or so ago. When the alarm still chirped, I figured the culprit had to be the smoke alarm a mere three feet away on the other side of the hall doorway. So I changed those batteries, too.

Still chirping.

Thinking that maybe one or the other of the batteries I’d just switched out were bad, I changed the batteries again. It didn’t make any difference.

There is a third smoke alarm a few feet away from the hall alarm — this one right inside my bedroom. I went into the bedroom and shut the door so I could hear if the alarm was in the room. Nope. It was very obviously on the other side of the door.

I checked online to see if there was something I was overlooking, and the article I read mentioned that if the battery door wasn’t closed properly, the alarm would still chirp. I checked, and yes, the door on one of the alarms hadn’t clicked completely shut. I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking the problem was solved.

But no.

Still chirping.

For a second, I considered the idea that a real live cricket had managed to find its way inside, but crickets don’t chirp ever minute or so like clockwork. And as far as I know, they don’t chirp in the daytime.

I stood in the hallway, surrounded by all those alarms, and listened, wondering what I would do and who I could call if I couldn’t figure out this dilemma. I could call my contractor, and although it’s not the sort of thing he normally does, I know he’d come and help if he could, but he’s working several towns away and probably wouldn’t be able to stop by today. I considered pulling out the chirping alarm but I didn’t know which alarm to pull or how to remove it. (I know how to remove the alarm cover, but don’t know how to disengage the wiring.)

The law says an alarm has to be outside a kitchen, and inside and outside the bedrooms, and this is what led to the mess I have, with so many alarms in such a very small area, making it almost impossible to pinpoint the troublemaker. Despite that, I did manage to rule out the alarm behind me in the hallway as the faux cricket.

There is also a carbon monoxide detector in the same vicinity, and as I stood in the doorway between the two detectors, I realized the chirping wasn’t coming from above, but at my feet. I didn’t even know a carbon monoxide detector that was plugged into an outlet could chirp. But obviously, it could because after I pulled it out of the outlet, the chirping stopped.

Blessed silence.

Luckily, I knew that particular outlet was connected to a gfci breaker in the basement, of all places. (A couple of days after I bought the house, the former owners stopped by to tell me about the bizarre placing of that particular gfci reset button and a few other idiosyncrasies of the house.) So I went down the stairs, reset the breaker, and plugged the carbon monoxide detector back in.

Still silence.

I considered moving the detector to another outlet, and maybe I should, but then I wouldn’t know if that breaker was tripped. But does it matter if I know? It’s not as if I’m going to be doing anything in the basement, and I hope that anyone who goes down there to work would know enough to reset the breaker if the outlet didn’t work. I don’t know why it would have tripped anyway except that the workers who were last in the basement had left a cord plugged into the outlet that wasn’t attached to anything on the opposite end. Just the cord. No appliance or tool. (It’s not something I would have done, but then, what do I know.)

Such excitement!

I’m sitting here enjoying the silence, but hanging over me is the thought that there will be another time.

Still, I manage to survive this episode. Chances are I will survive the next.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.