Things That Go Beep In The Night

1 Nov

My sister and I loved to play “cars.” We would draw an elaborate town on a large blackboard with roads, houses, a police station, a pet store, a grocery store, a toy store. Each of the stores had its own parking strip. We lived in the suburbs, after all. Then, we would take our brother’s cars and drive around, blowing noises through our lips to simulate driving and saying, “Beep, beep” for the horn. I’m pretty sure we didn’t let our brother play with us while we were playing with his cars. At the very least, we probably made the rules so complicated that he gave up. One day, my dad found him banging away on his cars with a sledgehammer.

There was a lot more horn honking when I was a kid. Noise pollution became a big issue and ordinances were passed. Overnight, it became illegal to honk your horn in frustration. Overnight, irritated drivers went from honking their horns to flipping their birds. Cars stopped beeping. I wonder, do children still “beep” their horns when they play cars, or do they flip each other off?

Now, lots of things beep. I have a timer that beeps until it’s reset. I use it to force me to do things I really don’t want to do. Say, for instance, that my basement looked like a haz mat dumping ground. Anyone with any amount of brain would be reluctant to enter such a basement. Anyone with any amount of dignity would not want to be the owner of such a basement. Let’s assume I have some small amount of dignity, therefore, the basement must be detoxified. I set my alarm for 15 minutes, then I enter the basement and begin detoxification. The alarm beeps and I am done. It will probably take me a year of 15-minute increments, but eventually my basement will only be nasty instead of downright scary.

I use my timer to allow me to do things I want to do, too. Like napping. I really like naps and science supports me in the value of napping. Left to nap unperturbed, I would nap for hours. Of course, if I nap for hours, there will not be fifteen minutes left in the day to detoxify the basement. So, I set my little timer for 25 minutes and I nap. Then, I get up and have a cup of tea. Then, I see that the mail has come so I go get the mail. Then, I realize I have to pick up my daughter. Then, I realize we have no milk, so we go to Target. Two hours later, we go home to make dinner. After dinner, I need to spend quality time with my family. Eventually, I realize that I have somehow forgotten to spend fifteen minutes in the basement and vow to descend to the pits the next day.

Lots and lots of helpful devices beep, besides alarms. Smoke and CO detectors beep. When we lived in Chicago, our CO detector started beeping in the middle of the night. I was relieved to find that it did, indeed, beep loudly enough to wake us. We pushed the little “shut up” button. It didn’t stop beeping. We called the fire department. The Chicago Fire Department is an awesome thing. They arrived quickly and in full dress. Two of the firefighters, dressed in their helmets and their big yellow coats, went through every room in our house. It was a four-year-old boy’s dream come true. They found no CO leaking anywhere. They did find a dead battery.

We have brand-new smoke detectors in our Naperville home. Every one of them is new, replaced just four years after moving here. You may wonder why we replaced all of our smoke detectors. We had to; they all went bad all at once. Naturally, they did it in the middle of the night. We determined that there was no fire. We reset the alarms. Two hours later, they all went off again. We reset them. One hour later, they all went off again. We reset them. Another hour went by, they all went off again. Then, in the morning, they mysteriously stopped. A very nice electrician charged us only a little bit extra to come that very day and install brand new detectors.

The new detectors don’t just beep; they also scream. They may even be cancer detectors. Whenever I broil meat, which has been shown to produce cancer-causing agents in food, the kitchen detector starts beeping and screaming, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” Because all of the detectors are linked, the ones in the upstairs hall and all four bedrooms start screaming, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” as well.  Needless to say, I don’t broil meat very often. I bet they’d let me broil eggplant.

The new detectors scold as well. Recently, they began beeping and saying, “Low battery.” The first time this happened was in the middle of the night. I didn’t hear another admonishment for at least eight hours, then, “Beep. Beep. Low battery.” Another few hours went by. “Beep, Beep. Low battery.” As all of the detectors speak with the same generic woman’s voice, it is impossible to figure out which one is scolding you unless you are standing right next to it when it scolds. So, I gathered all the nine-volt batteries I could find and started changing batteries. When I ran out of batteries, I went to Target for more. Please tell my husband that it is not ridiculous to pay $150 for nine-volt batteries.

I felt secure and safe in the knowledge that my smoke detectors were backup-powered for another year. Then, I heard, “Beep, beep. Low battery.” I had no idea where it came from. I stood very still and silent, waiting for another scolding. Nothing came. Enough minutes passed that I grew impatient and noisy. “Beep, beep. Low battery.” I was sure it was coming from the upstairs hall, so I went up there. I waited. Nothing. I got busy and noisy. “Beep, beep. Low battery.” I was convinced it was coming from the first floor, so I went down there. Nothing. Then, it started beeping more frequently.

I played Marco Polo with the scolding smoke detector for an hour before I finally figured out that it was in the toxic waste dump. I decided that I needed a nap before I could face the basement. I set my timer, closed my bedroom door and snuggled under my covers. Just as I was drifting off, my daughter pounced on me saying, with gritted teeth, “You must fix the siren right now, before I go insane.”

So, I changed the battery. Now, the only thing waking me up in the middle of the night is my daughter.

Copyright © 2010 by Janice M. Lindegard. All Rights Reserved.

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