2:27 a.m. And my smoke alarm beeping. Every 30 seconds. Cheerp. Cheerp. The man who loves me is in my bed next to me, dug so deeply into dreamland that he doesn't even stir when I get out of bed and stand directly under the offending device. In the dark, I stare up at the ceiling wanting to be certain it's this smoke detector and not the one in the hallway or the carbon monoxide detector downstairs. It is.
There's no possibility that I will get back to sleep unless I can stop the noise, so I go downstairs to the laundry room and pull out my plastic box of batteries. There's one 9-volt battery in the box and it's in a package that's been opened. Please be a good battery, I whisper as I head for the garage to get the ladder.
This should be pretty simple, I think. Back upstairs, I position the ladder, setting my iPad, in flashlight mode, on top of the ladder. I'm a 12-foot tall woman in jeans and a black lace bra in a spotlight and the man who loves me is still sleeping. If he wakes, I think, he may die of fright. Battery out. Battery in. Cheerp.
I stand on the ladder in the dark, typing "my smoke alarm won't stop beeping" into the Google search box. There are a variety of remedies, but first I have to ascertain if my alarm is AC or DC. I'm guessing it's hardwired since my house is newish, and that's probably required by safety code, but I can't tell by looking, so I haul the ladder into the guest room, close the door and turn on the ceiling light to look at the smoke detector in there. I'm thinking it should twist off easily if it's just a battery device. It doesn't.
The troubleshooting instructions insist that I must cut the power to the smoke detector, take the battery out, push the reset button, turn the power back on and re-insert the battery. Shirt on. Down to the breaker box on the exterior wall of my house. Each breaker is carefully labeled. None is for upstairs. There must be another breaker box upstairs. I can't find it. Unless it's in M's room. She's sleeping, and given her insane hours and her 65-mile each way commute to her job, she will probably kill me if I awaken her at 3:00 a.m. Cheerp. I'm thinking maybe that's not so bad.
Back to Google. Maybe if I just take the battery out entirely. Nope. Cheerp. Cheerp. Back downstairs. I recall that there was an extra smoke detector in the laundry room drawer when I moved in. If I can examine the device by holding it in my hands, read the white on white Braille-like lettering, maybe I can figure this out. There's a reset button. "Push to reset. Hold to test," the tiny letters say. How long is a push vs. a hold? Should I risk actually setting off the alarm? My mom will wake up. M will wake up. I'm not so sure about the man who loves me, but I'd rather poke out my eardrums than push that button. Standing upstairs in my closet with the extra smoke detector in my hand, I practice taking the battery in and out of that one, checking to see if I could have wrongly inserted the battery in the beeping detector. No. What if I push the button on the unattached smoke detector? It's not wired in. If the alarm sounds, I can rip out its battery. It beeps. Then beeps again. Now there are two smoke detectors cheerping. Good-bye battery. Cheerp. What??? The thing is cheerping and it has no battery. I stuff it into the pajama drawer in my closet and close the door.
It's almost 4:00 a.m. Google. Be sure the battery door is completely closed after you change the battery the umpteenth website says. Back up the ladder. Coax the cover. Wiggle it. Silence.
I have some booze on a pretty tray with a couple of glasses in my bedroom. Grand Marnier. Bailey's. A nearly empty bottle of Polish bison grass vodka that is so good, I have been reluctant to drain it. Now is the time. I sit in the big white easy chair in the dark, the bottle on the window ledge next to me. It's so quiet I can hear that lovely man in my bed breathing. Is he dreaming? Wait! What was that dream I was having?That dream just before I awoke. The Someone and His Someone. There were nefarious financial dealings. Blackmail. And….something. Some secret that explained everything about my divorce…but now it might as well have gone up in smoke.
Herons call over the water in the dark. The vodka bottle is empty. Back to bed.
In the morning, the moment he wakes, the man who loves me smiles and kisses me. When he sees the box of batteries on the bathroom counter, he says, "I guess you were up in the middle of the night." Later, over coffee, he tells me he slept well. And that he dreamt of Harrison Ford.