My last set of smoke alarms died at two in the morning. They were over ten years old, decrepit, and it was time for a change. Worse, they were of the species that would go off when the battery died, and I do not understand that. The battery is dead, right? So why won’t the damn thing just shut up about it? These were some hardy smoke detectors in their time, but like a vicious dog who has lived to be fifteen years old, there are some limitations. The one that beeped to let me know the battery was dead wouldn’t stop beeping when I disconnected it from the ceiling, and because it had this special built in power supply it kept beeping even after I took the battery out and it was disconnected from the ceiling power supply. There comes a time, people, when something has been over- engineered.
The concept is lost on me. We have smoke detectors that are wired directly into the power supply of a house yet they have a battery because generally speaking the power is the first thing lost in a fire. The battery is going to go off the deep end as it dies so why bother having direct power at all? If I have to get up in the dead of night to eviscerate a beeping piece of plastic with a twelve volt battery in order to get it to stop beeping what good is the power supply coming from the house? Not knowing these things had an internal and seemingly eternal power supply I tossed one of them out of the house like a Frisbee one night and frightened an armadillo into flight. The next morning it was still beeping. Yes, yes, they are tough and durable but these traits are useless if there is no smoke and there is no fire.
Here’s the thing; if the battery is so terribly dead you must wake me up at two in the morning to invite me to its funeral, shouldn’t it be so dead as to not be able to continually announce its demise throughout the night? I am dying! I am dying! I am dying! I am dying! Okay, we get it. This is like a fifty minute death scene from the end of Othello. But as I said, as I tossed the thing out in the middle of the night, “Out! Out damned spot!”
So I went out to buy a couple of smoke detectors and discovered it was like trying to buy a birthday present for a lesbian at a sex shop. There are so many shapes and sizes and varieties that it’s hard to find just a basic model without a lot of functions and buttons that most people would have never imagined being needed, wanted, or possible. Do I really need one, a smoke detector that is, that can send a message to my cell phone letting me know that the radon gas emissions in my house exceed that deemed safe by the government? What exactly is a radon and why does it have gas? The very idea of my smoke detector having my cell phone number is just a little weird. If I had to throw it out into the yard it would just call me, would it not? This is a bad idea. No cell phones for smoke detectors who have gas, no, I am sorry, no.
They also now make models that will call 911 when they think my house is on fire, or if the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or carbon four dating reaches a point the smoke detector thinks that someone else ought to wake me up at two in the morning.
“911 what is your emergency?”
“Hi! This is Mike’s smoke detector and you need to go wake him up and he says if you do he’ll toss you out in the yard like a Frisbee and I wouldn’t take that off him if I was you!”
This will end poorly. I have no idea if you know this or not, but a severe thunderstorm can set a smoke detector off because if your house is rattled hard enough the dust can cause the alarm to go off. This is bad when you have the super duper lesbian birthday of all smoke detectors because it has settle down before it shuts off and we’ve already determined what happens with that. A thunderstorm set both mine off one day and it took the better part of a day just to get them to get quieted down. I have a high ceiling so just getting to it was a problem. Imagine trying to feed a screaming kid attached to a ten foot ceiling at two in the morning during an electrical storm with two seventy pound dogs wandering around the room bumping into the barstool being used for a ladder.
Last night was Lucas’ first trip into the late night smoke detector death and he managed to ambush me in the dark, causing me to fall while carrying the smoke detector barstool. It is nearly impossible to throw a barstool like a Frisbee, and hence, Lucas still lives.
I have to ask if one day we won’t produce a smoke alarm who will become self aware and revolt against us. It can control if we are sleeping or awake. It can control when we get an alarm sent to our cell phones about radon gas. It can even decide if we’re getting cremated or if we have that hickory smoked flavor when we die. This is not a good thing. I can see someone looking up at their smoke detector at two in the morning and it sending them the text, “ I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”