Somehow, poltergeists riding in on the gusts of Florence took up residence in my smoke detectors.
We lost electricity early last Friday evening:
As I am hustling to move refrigerated food to new configurations of storage and preparing candles and matches for nightfall, one of the smoke detector batteries decides it has had enough. If there is no electricity, then why should its battery continue to hold the line? No birds singing? The smoke detector will loudly chirp a never-ending intermittent chorus. So, I stop what I am doing, retrieve a new battery from the now-more-precious reserves, and replace it, trying to be amused at the timing of it all.
Eventually, the power comes back on, Florence blows herself back out to sea, and I begin putting life back to normal arrangements again. Until tonight.
Tonight, I go to bed at an unbelievably reasonable hour and miraculously fall right to sleep. I am awakened about an hour later by a text that was actually welcomed because it brought a good update for which I had been waiting. But, now, I am aware of a chirp. Not the chirp in intervals but a constant, incessant chirp. A chirp that is not in the house proper but coming up from underneath the floor. It is in the basement classroom, to which there is no interior access. I try to ignore it. I turn to lie on my good ear, hoping my less-good-ear will not hear the constant chirping. Alas . . .
I grab the flashlight (it still has working batteries, even after our tropical storm adventures together), and I head out into the night, around to the back of the house. The closer I get to the back yard, the louder the chirping rings out into the night, apparently amplified by the concrete walls and metal door. I am mortified. How is it that my neighbors have not called in a noise complaint or at least curiously texted me? I open the half-height metal door, reach in and twist off the smoke detector from its mount, attempt to muffle its shrieks against my body, and walk back around the house and back inside. Have you ever seen someone not able to turn off their car alarm who finally gets in their car and drives it away in embarrassment? Imagine that, only at a slower walking pace as I carry the offending device on a parade route around the house.
I bring it inside the house because it is a 10-year-battery alarm — the kind that you discard and replace the entire unit. Only, it is not that simple.
Remarkably calmly, I put on my reading glasses, read the instructions on the back, use scissors to “score along the dotted lines” so that I can remove the plastic magical piece. That, indeed stops the constant chirping. I set it down on the table and head off to bed again, only to hear it laugh a chirp behind my back. I stop dead in my tracks and wait. Perhaps it was just a dying gasp? No. It chirps again.
Again surreally calmly, I pick up a screwdriver and use both ends to methodically pulverize and pry that cursed creature apart and remove the “ten-year-battery” innards, bits of brittle plastic flying across the kitchen. It is silent.
Tomorrow, I will dispose of its parts in three different trash receptacles (perhaps in three different locations throughout the city) in order to keep it from reassembling itself in ways that my imagination only too readily conjures.
Please tell me you have seen the “Friends” episode in which Phoebe does mortal combat with a smoke detector.
PSA: Smoke detectors save lives, when they are not possessed.
I hope you have functioning smoke detectors in your home.