I don’t have anything clever to say about bicycles today.
Wait. That was far too specific. I should have said, “I don’t have anything clever to say today.” No need to narrow it down to bikes.
But I have my reasons. And I’m going to subject you to that set of reasons right now.
I apologize in advance.
It is a scientific fact that no battery on any smoke alarm ever runs out of juice except between the hours of 3:00 and 4:30 AM. Say, for example, it’s a battery’s time to go, and it’s only 11:00 PM. All of the other batteries in the world will get together and concentrate very hard, lending good vibes and energy and willpower to that on-last-legs smoke alarm battery, giving it the strength it needs to hold on ’til 3:00 AM.
And so, at 3:00 AM — on the nose — this morning, I was wakened by a chirp.
Then, at 3:00:30 AM, I was awakened by another chirp.
At 3:01 AM, I was awakened by another chirp. This time, I was sufficiently awakened that I recognized the chirp for what it was. “Well, it’s 3:00 AM,” I thought. “This seems like the perfect time for me to go on a scavenger hunt for a 9-volt battery, followed by a game of chirping-smoke-alarm Marco Polo.”
I trudged petulantly to the fridge. And I’m dead serious about the petulance of my trudging. If you had seen me trudge, you would have been astonished at how effectively I can communicate petulance with mere footsteps.
The reason I went to the fridge, of course, was to see if there were any 9-volt batteries in it.
There were. Ten of them, still in their original packaging.
[Quick Aside: I'm pretty sure it's fairly common practice for people to keep new batteries in the fridge. Am I correct in that? Also, is there any basis to the conventional wisdom that batteries keep longer if refrigerated? Has there been a Mythbusters episode on that? It almost doesn't matter to me, because I have kept new batteries refrigerated ever since I've owned a fridge and like the fact that I always know where the batteries are, regardless of whether this is actually helpful (or maybe it's actually even harmful?) to the useful life of the battery.]
I spent four minutes grappling with cellophane, then started listening to the chirp in earnest.
Where could it be?
From the relative softness of the chirp and from the fact that I don’t like to go into the basement at night because it’s really cold down there, I decided the chirp was coming from upstairs. I trudged (petulantly, still) to the top of the stairs, then waited for the chirp.
And so the fire alarm decided it should start taking four times as long between chirps, to make the game of Dead Smoke Alarm Battery Marco-Polo more challenging.
Eventually, the chirp came, from the left. I went and stood under the smoke alarm at the end of the hall, gazing up at it, expectantly, thinking to myself, “I cannot think of a single thing I would rather be doing right now.”
The chirp came again. Right from up there. I had guessed right the first time.
I dragged a chair from what I lovingly call “The Roller Room.” I have named the room thusly because that’s where my rollers are. It’s also where Susan’s jewelry and craft equipment is kept, and the rest of the family calls it “the craft room,” but I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell anyone that “I’m headed up to the craft room for a couple hours.”
In a moment I had pulled out the old battery and put in the new one. I then dragged the chair back into The Roller Room, and started walking back down the stairs.
And then I heard the chirp again.
I pivoted, halfway down the stairs, and walked back up, upgrading my emotive level of trudginess to “put upon.” I then stood under the hallway alarm ’til I heard the chirp again.
No, that chirp was definitely not coming from the hallway smoke alarm.
I trudged — perfecting my put-upon trudge technique — downstairs, opened the fridge, got another 9-volt battery (taking a moment to be glad that I had started with more than one 9-volt in the fridge), and went back upstairs.
This time, using my powers of deduction — it couldn’t be the hall alarm and it shouldn’t be the twins’ alarm because I remember changing it fairly recently — I deduced it ought to be The Roller Room alarm.
Plus, I liked the fact that I would only have to drag the chair about eighteen inches to be in the right spot for changing the battery.
I made the swap, did not bother moving the chair back into its correct place, and started heading back downstairs.
And then I heard the chirp again.
I pivoted and went back upstairs. By now I was pretty well awake and had upgraded my trudge to a peevish march. I stood in the doorway between the hallway and Roller Room alarms, trying to tell which could possibly be the offender.
The chirp told me it was neither.
And that’s when I had a flash of brilliance: we also have a guest room.
You may think it strange that I had until this point completely neglected the possibility that the chirping could be coming from the guest room, but the door to that room is always closed. Nobody goes in except when guests are here, and then only guests go in. Sure, it’s part of the house, but we don’t think about it much.
The guest room door is also very nearly at the end of the hall.
I opened the door just in time to hear a — much louder now, thanks — chirp.
Downstairs I went, to fetch the third battery of the night.
Opening the fridge door, I considered how fortunate it was that we had a whole big-box-store-sized box of 9-volts on hand, since I evidently was in the process of doing stair intervals and changing every smoke alarm battery in the house. At 3:00 AM. Or rather, 3:15, now.
I replaced the battery, this time certain I had changed the right one. I shut the door and started doing my “grateful to be going back to bed at last” walk down the stairs.
And then I heard the chirp again.
I pivoted and went back upstairs. I really was absolutely positive that the smoke alarm in the guest room was the one making the noise, but stood under it until it chirped again to make certain.
Yes, no question about it.
I considered: could the chirp mean not that the battery was dead, but that the alarm was defective? Maybe. Could it mean that there’s a very small fire nearby, one that merited occasional chirping instead of full-on blaring? Maybe. Could it mean that I put the battery in wrong?
Yes. It could definitely mean that.
I got the chair back out of The Roller Room, opened the battery door and looked. No way to tell if it was in wrong from there. I took out the battery and checked.
Yes, that was it. I had put the battery in wrong.
I put the battery back in — this time really thinking it through — and started heading back downstairs.
This time I was almost certain I would hear the chirp again.
But I did not. I had — finally — triumphed.
I laid back down, grateful to finally be back in bed.
And then, for the next hour and a half, I contemplated the fact that once one has climbed the stairs half a dozen times (or so) and done no small amount of sleuthing, battery changing, more sleuthing, more battery changing, and then troubleshooting and battery changing, one might arrive at two very important truths. Specifically:
- If one were to use my hallway’s smoke alarm as the center of a six-foot circle, one would find four smoke alarms in that circle (the hallway, the guest room, the Roller Room, and the twins’ room).
- I was now thoroughly awake.