Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I think my smoke detectors are posessed, or sentient

It's taken me a few days to get around to posting this.  To be honest, I kinda wanted to make sure the adventure was over before telling the story, but it's been a couple of days and the cats don't appear to be traumatized so I guess it's time to share.

Sunday afternoon Steve and I were having a wonderfully relaxing time playing the wii together.  He received two new games for his birthday, the day before, so we wanted to give them a try.  So we're relaxing on the floor having a good'ol time, and suddenly there's a horrendous noise.  The cats scatter and I turned to Steve and said (yelled maybe, it was hard to be heard), "What's on fire?"  Out in the hallway there was no sign of smoke, and my first instinct was to check the stove.  But it wasn't on and there was no sign of smoke in the air and by the time I was upstairs again Steve (It's wonderful to be married to a tall man) had the batteries out of one of the detectors and the shriek had been tamed to a soft chirp. 

After checking the other smoke detectors (we have four) and seeing no sign of what set them off, my wonderfully tall husband replaced the batteries, we calmed the cats as best we could, and got on with our afternoon.

So we have time to settle down again, this time in separate rooms.  Steve playing tennis (on the wii) and I'm in the process of re-watching Babylon 5.  I'd coaxed a nervous cat to sit beside me, and less than an hour after the last alarm we startled by another three LOUD beeps.  So I meet Steve on the stairs and we check all the smoke detectors again.  They all have green lights and after the three beeps are silent, so after some discussion we think maybe we should change the batteries.  Of course no one actually keeps 9 volts in the house, so out we go to buy batteries at Publix.  What a lovely Sunday afternoon escape.  After debating the relative merits of Energizer vs. Duracell (Energizer won for being twenty cents cheaper) we return and swap out all the batteries in all four smoke detectors and settle back down again.

Less than two hours after the previous beeping we have yet another three loud beeps, followed by a thorough checking that all batteries are thoroughly connected and none have the polarity backwards.  Then we get the model numbers and I start a search for a user manual online.  Wonder of wonders, I actually found one.  It explains with detailed diagrams where to place smoke detectors, where NOT to place smoke detectors (apparently putting them in the kitchen like I do with my Sims is a bad idea), warn against electrocution, installation, maintenance, EVERYTHING you need to know to make them go off, nothing about how to shut them up. 

After a couple of hours of silence we thought the worst was over and grew complacent.  I even commented that they hadn't gone off in a while and Steve cautioned, "Don't jinx it."  And of course he was right.  Shortly after 5:00 again we have the three long beeps, which sets off a flurry of checking batteries and to see if any lights were blinking.  We start discussing contingency plans like, what would happen if we took all the batteries out?  Can we disable just one to shut the others up?  And, well, I think that's all we discussed, but I was wondering what local hotels accept pets, and if an animal that sleeps 20 hours a day can't recover from occasional interruption without having to go to a hotel with us.

But once more time passed.  We grew complacent and the smoke detectors knew it.  Five ours later they jolted us again and we responded with defeated resignation and went to bed.  This time it was actually a bit entertaining.  With one cat near the top of the stairs and the other at the bottom the blaring startled them so they ran in opposite directions, PAST each other in order to escape. 

This next part I know only from Steve's description, but he explains that shortly after 1:00 AM the alarm went off!  Not the three loud beeps as before, but several seconds of blaring siren followed by beeps and cat footsteps, then silence.  AND I SLEPT THROUGH IT!

This gets me wondering, both Steve and I travel for business occasionally, and what happens if the house catches fire when he's away and I'm asleep?  And if I can sleep through that then there's NO alarm clock that could ever do it's job effectively.  I need something to attach to the bed to shake me awake, or better yet a Wallace and Grommet type setup that will unceremoniously dump me into cloths and out on the lawn to safety from the fire (Or for regular mornings maybe it can dump me in the shower).  Somehow I don't think I can depend on the cats, who spent a significant portion of Sunday night and Monday hiding under the bed.  They can really only be depended on to tell me when it's time to feed them.  It goes something like this.

Me: Mrmph, Get Off!
Cat: I am really surprisingly heavy as I stand on you.  I have ninja powers to focus all my weight on the tips of my paws and dig them into your ribs.
Me: Steve, did you feed the cats?
Steve: (no response)
Cat: (Cold nose in a sensitive area, if no obviously sensitive area present itself just keep trying any bits of exposed skin)
Me: ALRIGHT!  I'll feed you! (stumbles into the bathroom, gets out the food and the scoop and tries to focus eyes to aim the food in the bowl) hey!  You have plenty of food!
Cat:  Mrrrmp?
Me: It's right there! I don't care if you ate a hole down to the center of the dish, it's got plenty of food in it!  Didn't your mom ever teach you to clean your plate?

They never seem to understand that there are starving kitties in Africa that don't get low-cal indoor kitty food.

Now what was I talking about?  Oh right, sentient smoke detectors.  So the next morning Steve, wonderful lovely Steve, who's GLAD I slept through the freakin' alarm because he knows that if I'm woken up in the middle of the night I have a terrible time trying to get back to sleep (did I mention how wonderful he is?), tells me of his adventures at one in the morning and how he didn't get back to sleep until after two, which I can totally sympathize with, so I decided then and there that this has to stop!  I will not allow my husband to suffer sleepless nights on less than four hours of sleep because of faulty electronics.  I will take a sledge hammer to them a'la Phoebe Buffay (friends) before I allow him to suffer, and I don't care if they are clearly labeled with "Do Not Tamper." 

It's my house and I'll make it unsafe by disabling the smoke detectors if I like! 

If only I knew how to disable the smoke detectors.  I don't want to be left like Phoebe was with an incessantly beeping thing.  So I called the manufacturer, and apparently they're not in the office until normal hours like 9:00 so I left a message about how completely imperative it was that they call me back as soon as possible and tell me how to stop the beeping.  And amazingly, they called back!  If you're ever looking for a smoke alarm company that calls back with real people when you have a problem, call USI ( they didn't pay me for this plug), but they don't do it on weekends.  

So this nice lady explains how to disable the smoke alarms and silence them, and how to diagnose which one is faulty (by process of elimination) and so I settle down to wait for them to make horrendous noises again.  And Nuthin'!  All day I waited and didn't hear a peep out of them, and this is where their sentience comes in.  I think they heard me talking on the phone with the manufacturer and figured out we were discussing how to kill smoke detectors, and I scared the beep out of them!

Steve stayed home yesterday and they didn't make a sound, and the cats don't seem traumatized today, so I assume they weren't going off all day today either. 

So the moral of this story is, if your electronics are bothering you, call the manufacturer.  Be sure you're in the same room with the offending device and discuss loudly all ways to completely disable it's power source.

Don't coddle it.  Buying it batteries will only make it think it can demand more of you.  You want to make sure it knows who's boss.  If you keep buying it batteries it will demand more and bigger batteries, and pretty soon you'll be trying to figure out how to hang a car battery from the ceiling.

Also, sledge hammers are not the answer, but really I learned this from Phoebe.


  1. Um, something went wrong with the spacing on this one after I posted it. I'm not sure why it has so much space between the paragraphs, but I can't figure out how to change it. Oh well, just shows what that Computer Science degree was good for.

  2. That is hilarious. It is always that way though. For me it was a weird sound that my car was making. As soon as I told my husband about it, it quit. When he was not in the car - sure enough, there it went again. Any time he was around -nada. Finally, I made him promise he was going to take things apart until he figured it out. He said "next weekend". It has never made the sound again.
    I have to agree. They are listening...