The phone rang and rang. By the third ring I sang along “Let it ring, let it ring, let it ring” on The Beatles’ tune,
Suddenly the ringing stopped and a voice demanded to know if she, on behalf of Kidde, could help me. I was totally unprepared to speak.
“Kiddie, right?” I inquired, feeling like a fifteen-year-old girl about to speak to a boy for the first time.
“How may I help you, Ma’am?”
“Um…,” my mind began to weave an epic tale of suffering, how it had started and how I had endured it, and oh, how I tried to take care of the problem myself and risked my life climbing on that swivel chair, and how I blame China for selling cheapo products made by kiddies to America’s hapless consumers, rich of dollars but poor of sound judgments. After all, I am a writer and my job is to spew out pages and pages of soapy plots.
“Ma’am, are you there?” the voice hitched on a higher note.
“Oh, yes, yes I am.” I almost said that Sam I am. “Just trying to be short and to the point, so give me a sec to recompose.”
I told her the shortest possible version of my two-month agony and frustration. When I was done telling her I felt like I had delivered a blurb of my memoir to an agent. It had taken me almost four years to learn the art of blurbing, the shortest of short elevator pitch.
I must have done a good job because she didn’t tell me to take a hike back into my writer’s wood. She asked me to go get a ladder.
“I’ve been using my office chair,” I said, avoiding the extra work.
“No, Ma’am, please get a ladder. I’ll wait,” she said, a bit curt to my taste.
I took my portable phone with me to keep her voice company while I opened the door to the laundry room, stepped over baskets of clothes through another door, which groaned on its hinge, to the garage.
“Just to let you know,” I said to her as I grabbed the stepladder. “I already change the battery. It doesn’t help.”
“Do you still want me to climb up?” I asked, just to make sure we understood each other.
“Yes, Ma’am. I would like you to take the smoke sensor down from the ceiling.”
“I’ll take down the one in my study. The other ceiling is too high for me to reach, even with a ladder.”
I laughed at my own physical limitation.
“Do what you can,” she said dryly.