Welcome to the Mexican stand off between me and my fire alarm. Am I allowed to say “Mexican” these days? I don’t know what’s racist anymore. But ANYWAY it all started about two weeks ago when I was watching TV, minding my own business, and a chirping noise much like the kind you would imagine a winged creature from the jurassic era might make, began intermittently sounding off from above my living room entryway. I’m not even sure I noticed it immediately. You know how apartments make weird noises sometimes and you just ignore them and then they go away? I’m pretty sure that’s what my mind was interpreting would happen here because by the time I actually registered the disturbance, it had been going on long enough for me to think Jesus, what the hell is that?!!!
Finally I looked up and there it was; a little white disk with a blinking red light, that in three years of living in this apartment, I had never seen before. My eyes scanned the unfamiliar circle above the door for a number of seconds in an effort to make sense of what I was looking at but from where I was laying across the room, it was tough to figure out. I could see some grey type written across the face, although I couldn’t tell what it said and there appeared to be a button at the top. And that’s when it did it again! Another pterodactyl like burp came spewing forth from its bowels, this time causing me to sit up and really sharpen my focus. Slowly, it began to dawn on me…You know what? I’ll bet that’s the fire alarm.
Now I’m not a complete idiot. It’s not like I’ve never seen a fire alarm before. I guess I just hadn’t given any thought to whether or not I had one. Plus, aren’t they usually in the kitchen? Well I rarely cook, so there was never any reason to hear from mine. This, coupled with the fact that I’ve also never been engulfed in flames, I suppose had always led me to believe that if I did have a fire alarm it was working just fine, making all scenarios ending with me dying in a raging inferno unlikely. And that was good enough for me.
Until recently, that is, when my seemingly harmless fire alarm began menacing me with the persistence of a Victoria’s Secret catalog. At first I underestimated my opponent, thinking more consciously this time that if I just ignored the yelping, eventually I wouldn’t even hear it anymore, however that was extraordinarily naive. Every sixty seconds a voracious BEEP! would go off leading me to the very somber realization that ultimately, I was probably going to have to get off the couch.
And thus began the battle royale.
I’ve always prided myself on being pretty self-sufficient. I painted my whole apartment. I can hang things, lift things, hell, I even know how to use a drill. There isn’t much I need help with, however if there’s one thing that’s made me feel like “just a girl” recently, it’s been the guerrilla warfare that’s played out over the last couple of weeks with this smoke detector. Let’s start with my attempt to free it from its docking station. After six minutes spent trying to pry/rip/knock and smash this thing off the wall it finally occurred to me to twist the disc, at which point the alarm released easily into my hand. Of course now I had to figure out what the hell it was all worked up about. Given that there was no fire in my apartment, I assumed it was either in need of new batteries or I would sooner than later be slipping into a carbon monoxide induced coma.
Turns out that carbon monoxide is indicated by “four beeps” which is good to know because if I had been hearing those four beeps instead of the one chirp before reading the alarm instructions, I can almost guarantee I would have sat and stared at this stupid thing with the same disinterest for just as long. I remember back when I lived with my brother and our alarm started making all kinds of weird noises. He mentioned “You know that could mean carbon monoxide, right?” to which I responded “Well what are we supposed to do about it? Call the fire department? That would be weird.” Point being, I would rather risk possible suffocation than endure the embarrassment of overreacting to a smoke detector and having twenty hot dudes in my kitchen thinking I’m an idiot.
So one chirp means “replace battery”. OK. No problem. Batteries, batteries, where the hell do you put the batteries?! After another six minutes of fumbling with the casing, twisting it, pulling on parts that look like they should slide out and beating it against the floor, I was exhausted and decided to shelf this battery bullshit until the following morning. Unfortunately though, the entirety of my apartment is only around seven square feet, so it’s not like I could just chuck the thing in the garage to avoid the relentless “low battery” warnings it was giving me. Not to worry though. As with most tasks I seek to procrastinate on, I immediately devised a workable plan.
That night I wrapped the alarm in a dish towel and shoved it all the way to the bottom of a plastic bag filled with other plastic bags in the back of my kitchen cabinet. This made it so that when I was in my bedroom trying to sleep, I wouldn’t tear at my skin or pull out my hair whilst trying to avoid anticipating exactly when the next beep would come.
Then! The following morning, I buried the alarm under a pile of laundry and stuffed it waaaaay in the back of my bedroom closet. This way I wouldn’t hear the chirping for the sixteen hours a day I spend looking at Facebook from my living room.
Did you catch that? The following morning I placed it in the closet. Rather than solving the problem in the a.m. like I told myself I was going to, I decided that continuously relocating this screeching demon dependent on what room of the apartment I was in would be less complicated than figuring out how to silence it. All day I carried on moving it from the kitchen cabinet to the bedroom closet but with most of my time spent in the living room, which is equidistant to both, there was almost always the flicker of a beep going off inside my head on a minutely basis which began to gradually transform me into a character not unlike Marlon Brando during the last scene of Apocalypse Now. It even got to the point that I began to hear the chirping when I wasn’t in the apartment.
This went on for two weeks. Back and forth, room to room. Occasionally when I would move the alarm I would attempt to find the battery console again with no success and then consider bringing the entire mechanism down to the trash can on the corner but I didn’t have the balls to risk the fine for getting caught without one during an inspection of some sort.
It wasn’t until Jeff came over and heard a series faint blips emanating from my bedroom closet as he looked for a pair of sweat pants he’d left behind, that he asked me why my laundry bag was about to detonate.
“Oh that’s just the fire alarm in my underwear.” I said as though this were perfectly logical.
You know that exasperated look guys get when us girls are trying to explain to them, with both parts enthusiasm and desperation, what we know to be a completely ridiculous scenario? Yeah. That’s the one I got as I attempted to rationalize disabling and entombing a critical piece of safety equipment in various locations of my place for nearly half a month. “I mean it’s not like I’m gonna die in a fire in this apartment anyway! There’s only three rooms! If there’s a fire in one, I’ll just go to the other and either walk out the front door or jump out the back window. What’s the big deal?!” After listening to me carry on for a solid two minutes, Jeff finally asked me to just give him the damn alarm so he could fix it.
And that’s when this happened:
I will say to Jeff’s credit, at least he thought to look up a video on YouTube that gave step by step instructions on how to access the battery compartment, bringing my two week smoke detector saga to a rather anticlimactic end in a matter of minutes. However, given the substance of the story, I’m not sure how much more dramatic a conclusion was possible.
It definitely took some time to get my life back together after that but it wasn’t long before things seemed to go on just as they had before. I do believe there’s a part of me that’s still shell shocked though. There are times I look up and see my smoke detector hanging from above the door now, taunting me, toying with me, begging the question “Did you buy Duracells?”
Then, two nights ago, minutes after I had closed my eyes to go to sleep, the unthinkable happened. A chirp, clear as a bell, rang out from beyond my bedroom door. My eyes flew open with the thought that this was impossible. I was just hearing things. There was no WAY that thing was at it again. And then sixty seconds later, a very distinct audible BEEP! went off causing me to toss aside my covers and run into the living room to investigate. I waited for a minute and nothing! Nothing was coming from my smoke detector! That’s right, MY smoke detector.