Sally signed up to sing on the mikes for all three services this morning. That meant that we had to be at church by 7:20 am. Knowing this, I went bed early last night, hitting the pillows around 10:45 pm. It took me perhaps 15 minutes to fall asleep.
At 11:15, I was woken by the shrill screeching of the smoke detector in the hallway. I jumped out of bed immediately, threw on some clothes and grabbed my glasses. I dashed out into the hall. No smoke there. I ran down to the main floor where the alarm was also going off. Still no smoke. We have hard-wired detectors — when one goes off, they all go off. I rushed to the basement. No sign of smoke.
I relaxed a bit, now that I knew there was no reason for panic. But I didn’t relax for long because I was going deaf. Chessie, who has almost no hearing left, was cowering by my feet. I had to get the noise turned off. I pulled the futon under the detector and looked for the off switch. There isn’t one. I pushed the test button. The alarm kept screeching. I pushed the test button and held it down — nothing.
I thought of turning off the breaker, but that would mean the heat would be off, there would be no lights and the clocks would have to be reset — and I’d have to figure out how to stop the noise in the dark. I pulled the unit down from the ceiling and contemplated the wires. I’m no electrician, so I just picked the black wire at random and untwisted it. The alarm in the basement stopped, but I could hear the ones upstairs still going.
I grabbed a chair to stand on and went to work on the detector in the entrance hallway. I pulled it down from the mount. On this one, I had to yank the black wire out of the detector while keeping in mind that I was dealing with live wires. I got that one stopped.
I carried the chair upstairs and went to work on the final alarm. By this time I had a pounding headache from the noise. My daughter was standing in her bedroom doorway holding her ears. I stood on the chair and tried to get to the wires. I couldn’t get the detector off the mount. I tried twisting. I tried prying. I tried banging. It wouldn’t come off, and it wouldn’t stop screeching. Finally the outer cover came off. That’s when I saw that it was screwed to the ceiling. I got a screwdriver, loosened the screws and was finally able to pull out the final wire. Blessed silence. All of that took about 15 minutes.
I took the chair back downstairs and put the screwdriver away. I took a couple aspirin for my head. It occurred to me that it was odd that Sally hadn’t come out to see if the house was on fire. When I went back in the bedroom, I found out why … She had slept through the whole thing.
I got undressed and went back to bed. Then I began wondering why the alarms had gone off in the first place. I had been downstairs earlier in the evening, using the space heater. Had I turned it off? I always do, but as soon as the thought occurred to me, I couldn’t stop wondering. I got up, got dressed and went all the way downstairs to check. It was off and unplugged. I went back to bed.
It was now 11:45. An echo of the screech was still ringing in my ears and the aspirin hadn’t kicked in yet. It took me at least half an hour to fall asleep again. I remembered that when we moved into the house last year, the hard-wired detectors were disconnected and independent units had been installed on every floor. The inspector recommended that we reconnect them, so we did. I now know why they were turned off.
And that’s why I fell asleep in church this morning.