For the last two months we resigned to live under the constant ear-splitting chirps of two hard-wired fire/carbon monoxide combo alarms, one located in our bedroom and the other in my study. Cheap, they yelled day and night. Cheap, they whined in syncopation as I tossed and turned in bed. Cheap, cheaper, cheapest. They alternated turns to accuse no one in particular, going through all the available forms of superlatives—as I cooked, as I did my laundry, as I read or worked in my office, laboring over a hard chapter or chasing inspiration, my ears sprouting white cotton balls. Over time, I began to discern in the rhythmic chirps a conjugation, “I cheap. You cheap. We cheap. Made in China. We all cheap.”
They are made by Kidde. I say it again, they’re put together by kiddie. I am not joking.
At first, I thought it would be easy to figure out what was ailing them. After all, they are just smoke alarms, not rockets. Nonetheless, it was time to hit the book. I began my education by poring over the instruction manual from cover to cover. What could be wrong? How many things could go wrong in a smoke alarm? I read the sacred text in English as well as the French version, highlighting obvious words like “battery type”, “manufacture warranty”, skipping over nothing, from features to installation to operation. I read them pages upside down then right to left, the way Chinese supposed to be read, hoping to find something I missed, something that would say, “To turn beeping sound off, do this, dummy!”
I left no page unturned. Obsessed, I browsed Kidde’s website for more clues. How interesting, I said to myself. Look, under this whole safety section called “Take the complicated out of carbon monoxide” was this “beat the beep” subsection. It read like a chapter from a marriage counseling book. “Is your CO alarm trying to tell you something?” Whoa, they even discussed the “end-of-life” question. Although I was glad I visited the website, at the end of the day, I still hadn’t found out how to shut the noise off.
I have educated myself well enough about the history of Kidde, their various products, their partners, their dealers and builders, but it was time I put my learning to practice. I climbed up on an office swivel chair to push on the round button in the middle of one of the alarms located in the study because, duh, “Push to hush” were printed there on one side. It didn’t work. On the opposite side of “push to hush” were these words: “Hold to test weekly.” I then tried to hold the button down, causing the device to shriek bloody murder, “Fire, fire,” almost breaking my precious unwarranted ear drums. Tantalus yelped and escaped to the far end of the house. From his safe place of refuge he barked back at me, but he soon was distracted by my awkward and unnatural position, standing on an office chair and swiveling back and forth like a compass needle exposed to super-strong magnet, the one they advertised on eBay as made of rare earth and heavy-duty suckers like my Hubby the Hero bought home by the boxes.
My poor dog was rendered speechless because he never saw me doing acrobatic stunts before. Indeed, with one hand reaching up to hold the alarm’s button down, my shoulder raised high to block the sound from that side’s ear while my free hand plugged the opposite ear, I was indeed performing an amazing circus number. He plopped down on his belly and whined for my return, for that creature hovering in between heaven and earth wasn’t his pack leader.
For a full minute the device shrieked. But I endured the siren because I had seen the construction workers did this while they were still working at our home, and sure enough, after I let go of the push button, the silence was restored. Ah, I could kiss the beautiful quietness and fall on my knees to thank the Merciful One for its return. Alas, curse it, “cheap, cheap” restarted as soon as I clambered down.
After so many permutations-commutations, such as hold the button down until the sound stops, hold the button down until the sound stops then push it once, push it once then hold the button down, I gave up trying.
The moral of this story: seeing someone else doing it is NOT the same as doing it yourself.
Next blog: Technologically Speaking: Whack ’em Kidde!