On the border of my consciousness I hear chirp. Not to worry. I am able to sink my consciousness back into the black hole of sleep.
4 AM and 30 secondschirp Wumpus, our six-year-old cat, has never, in the six months we’ve had him, snuggled up in bed. Wumpus softly leaps onto the mattress, walks over me and walks back. I ignore the cat. Oddly, Wumpus settles down and purrs. (Just as you might get a used car, we got ourselves a used cat and so have not been able to train him up to our cuddling standards.)
4:01 AMchirp My husband, whose hearing is even worse than mine, is out cold.
4:01 AM and 30 secondschirp I am more or less awake. This chirp sounds familiar; it is the sound of battery failure in the smoke alarm. However, when we renovated the master bathroom, I thought the guy -- chirp -- said the new type of alarm didn’t use batteries. I can drift off if I try.
4:02 AMchirp I am damn well going to drift off.
4:02 AM and 30 secondschirp I am not doing any drifting. I lay there trying to think.
4:03 AMchirp I will simply go to the other bedroom and close the master bedroom door. I won’t hear the thing, and, obviously, nothing is going to wake Steve. I tuck my pillow under my arm.
4:03 AM and 30 secondsI toss all the pillows off the guest room bed. CHIRP! Yikes! That was LOUD! It’s not the bedroom smoke alarm, it’s the one in the hall. The old fashioned one. It will chirp until the battery is replaced. Which I’ve never done.
chirp Steve changed the battery last time which was something like ten years ago. I briefly consider waking him up. I mentally review the resulting screaming and swearing (not at me, in all fairness, but at the alarm).
chirp I think about simply making coffee and getting up for the day, but the thought of listening to that sound every 90 seconds for the next three or four hours is too awful. Not only that, I vaguely recollect that after some time the chirps get closer and closer together until they are a constant screaming. Not only that, but it’s freaking four o’clock in the morning!
chirp Wumpus is very excited to see me drag myself out of bed. He immediately runs to his food bowl. There’s no way I’m opening his morning can of cat food at, let’s see, 4:10 AM. Fortunately there are still some crunchies in his bowl from the previous evening. I stand there for a minute and watch him eat because Wumpus does not like to dine alone.
chirp I drag the step stool out from behind the laundry room door and open it up under the smoke alarm. There’s writing on the alarm, but the writing is very small; it is way up on the ceiling, and, for heaven’s sakes, it’s beige on beige. Or would you call that ecru on ecru? Ah, there’s a button. I press it. Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp! The cacophony almost topples me off the stool. That was the test button. Has anyone ever tested a smoke alarm? I thought not.
I twist and turn the alarm but nothing comes down or out or off. chirp I climb down and turn the stool to the other side. Up I go again. Ah, there’s a nub sticking out of the base. I run my fingers over it and push. Yes! It’s the catch to the battery container! Ha ha!
chirp Hey! I’ve opened the dratted thing which means the battery no longer has contact, so how can it be chirping? And if it has the electricity to chirp, why does it need a battery? I try to pry at the nine volt battery. It won’t come loose. Chirp I try again. What can I use as a fulcrum? This isn’t fair: I’m half asleep. chirp One last tug, and it comes free. I’m proud that I remember to notice which way the electrodes are facing. I step off the ladder almost onto the cat who is watching with great interest.
Back to the kitchen to the junk drawer where I there's a 9 volt battery among the detritus. chirp I hold the new battery in my left hand and the old one in my right. I don’t want to confuse them. Wait? Aren’t you supposed to dispose of batteries in some special way? Hey, it’s 4:20 AM; I chuck the darn thing.
chirp Up the steps. I press the new battery into the container and wedge it closed and chirp! No, no, NO! It is obvious that the battery is not in correctly because the door doesn't want to open. I again pry out the battery and flip it so the right diode is on the left and vise verse. Back in. The door won’t close. chirp! I force it, well, just a little. I climb down and sit on the step stool. chirp! That battery was just floating in the drawer so maybe it is old.
There were a couple of more still in their wrapping, so I toss this one and retrieve a new one. Back up the step stool. chirp You think it’s annoying reading all these chirps? You have no idea. I slide the new battery into the casing. Or I don’t. It won’t go in. I kid you not. The thing gets wedged at an odd angle. chirp Eventually I am able to pry it out and slide it back in. Nope, the door won’t close. I briefly consider smashing the works with a sledge hammer, but that would mean going to the garage to GET the sledge hammer which I can’t lift very high anyway. I plug in the battery again, but now it seems too loose. I cross my fingers and close the little door. chirp
Too sleepy to feel much triumph, I fold the stool up and put it away. Back I creep, back to my snuggly, soft bed. It’s 4:45 AM, just early enough that I’m pretty sure I can get back to sleep.
Steve begins to softly snore.