I mounted the steps of the ladder, reached up and turned the alarm unit counter-clockwise as instructed by the voice over the speakerphone.
“Looks like the ring turns with it,” I informed her.
“It’s hardwired in,” I said, emphasizing the fact. I didn’t want to be electrocuted in my own home for a crime I didn’t commit. The truth was I didn’t trust a female voice, stern as it was, in matters concerning electronic, electrical, or anything that was put in by a construction worker.
“It’s alright. Once you unscrew it, you’ll find a plug attached to a red wire and a black wire. Squeeze it, and that will release your sensor.”
“You know, I’m too short to look through the gap, and the wires may be too short to bring the alarm down further,” I warned her. “I really don’t want to yank too hard and bring down the house.”
“Squeeze the button,” she reminded me. My attempt to humor her didn’t break her ice one bit. I suspected she thought me an idiotic housewife without an ounce of knowledge about anything, except the wifely skill to say, “Yes, dear.”
Sadly, of all wifely skills, I lacked exactly the feminine arts to breathe “Yes, Dear,” or else I wouldn’t have to work so hard to restore silence to my home.
“Deep,” the alarms sounded as my fingers pressed blindly the plastic plug.
“Do you want me to squeeze the long end or the short?” I asked, “because it doesn’t seem to budge.”
My fingers fought heroically to save my face. Suddenly, click, I did it. See, where there is a will, and the challenge of proving oneself….
I brought the still-blinking devices down from its high place on the ceiling and carried it to a table the way Ulysses carried his chalice, with awe and expectation. This thing that had disrupted my life for over two months was about to be put into submission. I was very curious how.
“Ok,” I said to the invisible miracle maker, “I’m ready whenever you are. Part the water.”
She didn’t seem amused. “Ma’am, see if you could slide the little door open and expose the battery compartment for me,” she ordered.
I complied, holding my tongue. What would she do differently?
“Now, take the battery out and depress the round button for me.”
“You sure?” I quipped. “Do you want me to stuff cotton in my ears first? I have lived through this experiment before.”
Her silence prompted me to do as told or else. I flexed my inner ears muscle to prepare them for the onslaught. But no sound ensued.
“What does it mean?” I asked, eager to find out.
“It should have beeped three times,” she said. I waited for her to concede and declared she didn’t know any more than I did.
“Ma’am, can you do this for me,” she asked after a short pregnant silence. Admit your defeat, I said to her in my mind, when she continued, “Hold on to one side of the alarm, and whack the other side with your hand.”
“You mean sm…smack it? Hit it?” I just wanted to be sure of what I heard.
“Yes. Give it a decent slap.”
Her voice did not show any signs of irresolution. I delivered a sounding spank to the naughty sensor and felt a sense of justice. Maybe she wanted me to get rid of my frustration in a healthy way, instead of directing it to her or her company. I didn’t know they hired a psychologist to handle troubling customers.
Just as I thought, the violence didn’t seem to do us any good, except that little gratification on my part. Her next words started me, for uncannily, she said, “Just like I thought,” sighing.
“It’s the battery.”
“Impossible. It was a brand-new battery and I even tested to see if it was good before putting it in,” I protested her diagnosis.
“The expiration date?”
“The expiration date. Tell me what is stamped there.”
“You sure battery comes with an expiration date?” I was clearly surprised. I knew I came with a shelf life, but battery? So what is a Voltmeter for?
I squinted hard. There WAS a faint outline of something like a date at the place where she told me to look. I reported this fact back to her, adding, “Unfortunately, with my expired vision, I cannot read the numbers. Wait until I turn on my cell phone camera and blow it up…you know what I mean.”
I tilted the battery in all direction, making the blurry numbers dance around. I was glad she could not see what I was doing. I was like a child looking through a kaleidoscope, watchful for the apparition of meaningful images.
Thank Heaven for smartphone. There, to defend my honor, was a future date, 06-2015. I proudly read it to her, then added childishly, “See, I told you.”
“Ma’am, the battery isn’t good enough. Anything older than 2019 isn’t good.”
“But the Voltmeter….”
“You need to change the battery, as simple as that,” she said.
“As simple as that,” I repeated, still unconvinced of the simplicity of the truth.