Assaulted and Batteried

“Beep”. I pretended I didn’t hear it. “Beep!” Maybe it will go away. “BEEP!!!” and by that time the dog had heard it, his quivering body pressed up against my office chair so hard he knocked my fingers off the keyboard.

It was 9:00 and our usual bedtime. But the dog, in his neurotic way, becomes agitated and frantic to get out the door when things beep. Something had to be done or none of us, man nor beast, would get any sleep.

The sound came from upstairs, and was, or course, the fire alarm in the hallway. I had taken the battery out a couple of months ago when the 9 volt went bad. (The battery backup insures the alarm works even if house current is off.) Now, here it was beeping again–possessed by some strange power–even without the battery!

BEEP! Great Caesar’s Ghost! Now the alarm in the bedroom was beeping too! This called for more serious measures.

So I unscrewed the units from the ceiling mounts and disconnected them entirely. There! That should do the trick.

BEEP! AGGGGGHHH! It was like being screamed at by a decapitated head! Both units lay on the hallway shelf and both continued to beep from their ceiling connectors!

Ramp it up a notch: we’re about to go to bed, so just turn off the power in the upstairs, I decided. Quick–to the breaker box, Batman!

Switches off, upstairs is dark. But NO! The zombie alarms could not be killed. So at 9:15, I scraped ice off the windshield of the Subaru and headed off to the first “convenience” store that had batteries. Convenience, btw, is a misnomer when you live where we live and the stores live where they live. The closest would be 15 miles one way.

And the ultimate terror: replacing the batteries will make no difference when I get home with them. Google the closest Motel 6.

So, despite one large buck who threw himself in front of the car, and a very small fox who was standing in the middle of the road as I rounded one of 5 blind curves before I reached the hardtop (and countless other suicidal reflective eyes just off the shoulders of the winding road down Allegheny Spring Road) I found three 9 volt batteries in Shawsville. Now what?

Home just before 10, and the moment of truth (the dog listened anxiously from his pen out in the cold dark.) The beeping stopped. And they all lived happily (or at least beep-free) ever after.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I was going to say the exact same thing June did in the comment above. Never in the daytime–always at night! Once we had first time guests staying with us, and the alarms went off at midnight. Talk about a scramble!

    We haven’t had problems in awhile now, but now that you brought it up, Fred, and since the Thanksgiving guest holidays are upon us…I’m expecting to hear those beeps any night now!

  2. Been there and done that too! And Oh Yes, it has always been in the middle of the night. First time I heard it, I was awaken from a sound sleep and I had no idea, what it was. I stumbled around half asleep until I figured out and it was in the far end closed door guest bedroom. Fortunately I had a battery to fix it.

    But I had one in the living/dining/kitchen area that would go off every time I used the toaster, or slightly over heated anything. If there was any smoke I couldn’t detect it. I finally completely disconnected that one. I know it would be better to have one in this area, but I had enough of that ear piercing event every morning with my toast. So one morning I just lost it, and removed that aggravating thing!

  3. Where we live, the wind gusts in winter (especially at night) can approach eighty MPH on a regular basis. And unfortunately, when that happens, our big woodstove tends to smoke, which of course sets off our smoke alarm. It is so common that now, zombie-like, we can get up, remove the batteries, and go back to bed on automatic pilot, though the piercing alarm is usually sufficient to bring us fully awake.

  4. After my house was broken into in 1995, I signed up with a security company……….My alarm system is intergrated with my local police & fire department……..despite a couple of false alarms over the years I just feel more secure being a single woman living alone. After the break-in, I also have several rooms with automatic lights on & off, so that when I am out at night there are several rooms with the lights on in order to deter prospective intruders……..

  5. Many smoke alarms have, as part of their internals, a small lithium battery whose sole function in life is to beep when the power is out, the alarm is disconnected or the 9-volt primary backup is dead.

  6. Yip, Doug is right. And usually they all begin their 45 second pause / beep backup-battery-low cycle around the same time. In my case this happened two weeks ago with about 6 alarms in the house. One went off at 12am one night; the next at 1am the next night. So I just made sure to buy 6 damn batteries at Lowes the next day, ecosystem be damned!