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

Buyer’s Remorse

I’d forgotten about buyer’s remorse. Not that I ever had reason to remember the concept because until last week, I’d never owned a house. (Until a couple of months ago, I’d never even considered owning a house!) It’s come as something of a surprise that I am now not just a homeowner, but a house owner.

So far, though, it’s been great. No remorse!

There have been a few frustrating episodes, such as trying to get set up with the internet. What a chain of errors, lies, and miscommunications! But I’m set up now, so that’s good. There’s so much work to do to get unpacked and settled that I didn’t really miss the internet, but it does help to be back online. It feels normal and familiar in a world where little is familiar. New house. New (to me) furniture. New town. New folks to meet. New chores. (I’ve never been obsessed with neatness, but I have discovered how lovely it is to wake in the morning and see my beautiful living room, so I make sure I do a quick clean before I go to bed.)

And then there was “that” day. For the most part, the weather has been ideal, but shortly after I got here, a bomb cyclone hit. We didn’t get the blizzards that Denver and other areas got. We just had a bit of rain and insanely high winds. Being in town helped moderate the winds because other houses provided a bit of a wind break, but even though we didn’t get the 80-mile-an-hour gusts that were recorded at the local airport, the wind was still severe.

Luckily, this house really is solid. No drafts, no whistling or rattling windows. The electricity, however, did go off for a couple of hours. After about an hour, the smoke alarms started screeching. To be honest, I don’t see any reason for smoke alarms to be wired into the electric system — individual alarms seem to work just as well — but that’s what I have here: inter-wired alarms. When one goes off, they all go off.

Which is overkill. A beep from cell phone can wake me. Why would I even need four alarms screeching at me all at once? I dismantled all the alarms, but they still continued to screech. It wasn’t until I took out the batteries that silence finally prevailed. When the electricity came back on, I reattached the alarms. Or tried to. Two did fine, but one chirped and one screeched. Thinking it might be a circuit problem, I ran outside in my stocking feet for just a second to check the breaker box, but couldn’t figure out how to open it. I ran back to the door, but the screen door had latched. (I think the wind banged the door shut with such force that the latch latched.)

So there I was, in the rain and mud, with winds that about blew me over, in my stocking feet, and no way to get inside. I had the keys, but the screen door didn’t have a keyhole. I ran down the street to where a handyman lived, but no one was home. Then I ran to my next-door neighbor, and asked if he knew how to jimmy a lock. He did. Took about a second. (But he couldn’t figure out how to open the circuit box, either.)

Such an adventure!

I’ve been trying to connect with people. I went to a spaghetti lunch put on by the historical museum and introduced myself to a few people, spent a day with the previous house owner, (she wants me to join their bowling league, but as much as I enjoyed being with her and her friends, I’m not a bowler, and don’t really see myself ever becoming one), and had tea with my next-door neighbor. When she saw me in my hat, she donned one, too. That was fun. I’d never lived next door to someone close to my own age and, as it turned out, I’m the answer to her prayers. (She prayed that someone nice and friendly would move into this house.)

And tomorrow, I’m going to a meeting of the art guild.

Not bad for being in town just a bit over a week!

I’m looking forward to new adventures, new people, new plants. I found some green poking up through the awakening soil, a couple of lilac bushes hiding behind the garage, and a few periwinkle plants.

So no remorse! Of course, I don’t know what the coming days, weeks, months will bring, but although I miss the friends I left behind, I’m interested to see what will happen 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.