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.

Gadgets, Gizmos, and the Exasperating Mysteries of Life

I wondered if the smoke alarm’s tendency to chirp at 2:00 in the morning when the battery is old had anything to do with the temperature, so I read a few articles, and apparently I was right. The cooler temperatures in those pre-dawn hours affect the battery output, and if the battery is getting low, the smoke alarm chirps. I was excited at seeing this confirmation of my surmise until it occurred to me that this scenario did not fit with my 2:00 am chirping because I’d turned off the air conditioner, and the temperature at that time was the highest it had been for several hours. Since I know that high temperatures also affect batteries (my car battery went dead in July one year, which is how I found out), it’s possible the high temperature had an effect, but the house had been hotter earlier in the day.

So I’m back to thinking that the early morning chirping is one of those exasperating mysteries of life, like the annoyance of a cricket in the house, the irritation of mosquitoes in the bedroom, the disturbance of a dripping faucet, the nuisance of a running toilet valve.

One of the articles I read was really an ad for a smoke alarm that had a built-in 10-year battery, which is all fine and dandy, but what happens in ten years when the thing starts chirping at 2:00 am and a simple battery substitution doesn’t eliminate the noise? I’ll stick with what I have for now. Maybe the next time I need to replace the smoke alarms, the ten-year devices will last to my expiration date, and will annoy the folks who end up in the house. A present from me, so to speak.

Considering the success I had in changing all the batteries by myself, even to the point of dragging a ladder from the garage into the house, I thought I’d tackle another little project involving a gadget that I’ve been putting off — installing an automatic garage-door closer.

My door is equipped with a non-automatic closer — me! — but since I am preparing for my old age, and since I tend to be a bit absentminded at times, I figured an automatic closer would be nice. I followed all the steps of the instructions, even found the “learn” button on the opener and set up the ladder so I can reach it, but somehow, the closer and opener didn’t connect. I tried again, but got the same non-result, though the two gadgets are supposed to be compatible. Another exasperating mystery.

If I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong, and if The Bob ever declines enough that travel is again an option for more people, I’ll see if my brother can get the gizmo to work the next time he comes to visit. (The closer was his idea in the first place, so he should be able to.)

Meantime, I am trying to get in the habit of being patient and waiting until the door is completely closed before taking off. Considering that not everyone in the neighborhood is as honest as my immediate neighbors, I figure it’s best not to give the larcenous neighbors an opportunity to sneak in before the door is completely closed. (That’s one of the ways felonious folk break into people’s houses, and even though the garage isn’t connected to the house, I wouldn’t want anyone in my garage illegally anyway.)

Gadgets, gizmos, and the exasperating mysteries of life. What a day!


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

Joys of Modern Life

It’s horrendously early in the morning as I am writing this, hours before I generally get up, but I had to deal with a chirping smoke alarm, and now I can’t get back to sleep.

It’s my own fault, really. I should have changed the batteries a month ago since that’s when the alarms were originally installed, or even a week ago when I changed the batteries on the thermostat, but I don’t have a talent for ladders, so I hoped to get someone else to do the job. But I put it off. And there was no one around tonight (this morning!) to stop the chirping but me.

I looked up the instructions on how to change the batteries, and they were more complicated than I wanted to deal with, having to do with danger warnings, shutting off the power, flathead screwdrivers, and removing battery locks. I was sure the person who installed the alarms showed me a battery drawer in the side of the device so I wouldn’t have to dismantle the device before changing the batteries, but when the drawer didn’t easily open, I thought I might be mistaken.

So, YouTube to the rescue.

I was right about the drawer, and I managed to change the batteries on one alarm, but the chirping continued. When two alarms are close together, it’s almost impossible for me to figure out which one is chirping, and I’d picked the wrong one. I got the drawer of the second alarm open, but couldn’t remove the battery. A bit of finagling and a minimum of swear words, and the battery finally came out. Luckily, the new battery slid right in.

Ahhh. Silence.

I still have two more smoke alarms to do, but to get to the one in the back room, I will have to drag a longer ladder in from the garage. The smaller step ladder I’d used for the others won’t work because there is nothing for me to grab hold in that room to help me keep my balance. At least the others were near doorways, which gave me some purchase.

I know these smoke alarms are lifesavers, but do I really need four of them? One is in the bedroom, one in the hallway, and one near the kitchen as is required, but that puts all three of them within a few feet of each other.

Oh, well. There shouldn’t be a problem after this — I’ll write down the date I changed the batteries and will make sure I change them within the year so I can do it at a reasonable time rather than in the middle of the night.

I didn’t have to change the batteries tonight, of course — according to the instructions, I had a week in which to make the change. A week of that chirping? I don’t think so. I couldn’t even deal with an hour.

Now that the adrenaline of being so rudely awakened has drained away, maybe I can get back to sleep.

And so ends another saga of the joys of modern life.


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