Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An Alarming Trend

Ever since Joel and I bought our current house, we've been paying (literally and figuratively) for what was clearly a questionable decision.  Six years in, we've replaced every appliance, flooded the house more times than Graham has forgotten to flush the toilet, and finally emerged from the other side of an unexpected basement renovation.

The house is getting its revenge.

But now that all of the repairs have been made, the house has had to get creative to screw with my head.  Before, all it took was a haunted-house style maze of unattached duct work and light switches that didn't switch lights.  I'd run back and forth around the house flipping switches in varying combinations and then washing my hands repetitively as if stuck in an OCD tailspin.

But all of those problems are old news, and the house had to up its ante.

It began with the upstairs carbon monoxide detector.  One day the batteries went dead, and when I tried to hang it back on the ceiling with fresh batteries, I discovered that the metal clips designed to hold the batteries in place were loose.  When turned upside down in its designated spot, the batteries would begin to fall and the alarm would let out that telltale chirp signalling me that my house is a piece of crap. 

That sound, oh that sound... in the midst of this noisy debacle I had to focus my brain on something else.  Mentally I composed a letter to the alarm company.

Dear alarm sound engineers,
Congratulations on a job well done.  The alarm sound used in your carbon monoxide detector would not only wake me from a dead sleep, but I believe it could possibly wake the dead themselves.  When I hear that high pitched tweet, I jump to action-- rounding up my children and sending them outside to safety while I use any tool available to personally remove my eardrums.  I prefer the round metal stick-like implement used for sharpening knives.  Now my house sounds quiet and calm.  Thanks so much!

When I snapped back to reality, I tried to tape the batteries into place and I tried inserting them differently.  Eventually the little metal clip broke out completely and I had to throw the whole thing away which gave me a bit of a perverse thrill, much like when leftovers you didn't really like to begin with get moldy and you can finally dump them down the disposal without feeling guilty. 

The alarm sounded even better in the disposal than it did on the wall.

Knowing there was another alarm in the basement where the carbon monoxide would be most likely to originate, I put it on the grocery list and went about my (much quieter) business.  Then last week, with the alarm event completely in the past, I came home after being gone with the boys much of the day to a familiar high-pitched chirp emanating from the basement.  It couldn't be, could it?

It could.  The remaining monoxide detector was beeping erratically; instead of the "every 30 seconds" time frame written on the back of the unit, it would go silent for minutes at a time and then throw a hissy fit like a two year old.  Working quickly because the baby was already in bed, I rounded up the necessary batteries and popped them in.

**ALERT**     **ALERT**

Immediately the alarm went off.  But before I could do anything about it, it quit completely as if nothing had ever happened.  I chalked it up to a quick surge, because I knew the batteries were new and charged, but when I got back on my stool to reattach the unit, it went off again.

Then it quit.  Went off again.  Chirped four times.  Went off.  I searched for the knife-sharpening stick.  Two chirps.  Alarm.  Perforated ear drum.  PTSD.  Mental instability.  

I yanked the batteries and threw it all on the table.  What was going on?  I could only imagine two possible scenarios:  Either the alarm unit was old and malfunctioning with and without working batteries, or there was indeed a carbon monoxide leak and my one remaining alarm was trying to alert me while dying a slow and agonizing death.  Probably from carbon monoxide.

The former was more likely, but I knew I would never sleep knowing that there was a small (admittedly very small) possibility that we were all breathing noxious gases during the night, and I'm not referring to the kind I'm subjected to when riding in the van with three boys all day.

I called our energy company and told them the whole sordid tale-- that our first alarm was on the fritz, and at the same time the other remaining one made an attempt on my life and that I just didn't know what to think, and would they come check it out?

As I had suspected, there was no leak.  That confirmation gave me enough confidence to happily toss the alarm in the trash and go to sleep.  The next day we bought two brand new alarms that no longer come in a circular shape, so Joel had the entertaining task of (quite literally) fitting a square peg into a round hole.

We slept well for two days, knowing that the air was clear and all alarms were functional.

**ALERT**     **ALERT**

Except for the smoke detectors, that is....

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