Good batteries make good neighbors

We all know how smoke detectors start beeping when the battery needs to be changed, right?

A couple of weeks ago Susan and I were awakened about 3:45 AM by one of those faint but persistent beeps that we recognized as a call for a new battery.  I got up to see which smoke detector it was.

Not the one in our bedroom – it would have been louder.  Not the one in the skylight hall, nor in the downstairs hall.  Lauren and a friend were sleeping downstairs, and the problem definitely wasn’t in her room.  I didn’t want to go into Zack’s room and risk waking him, so I checked the other ones again.

It’s not a quick process.  The interval between beeps is at least one minute, and it seems much longer when just roused from that all-important deep sleep.  Beep.  Nope.  Sounds like it’s upstairs.  Pause.  Hold on.  Wait for it.  A little longer.  Beep.  Not that one.  I’m sure it’s not our bedroom, but it’s coming from that direction.  Wait.  Wait some more.  More.  Beep.

I’d already pressed my ear against Zack’s door and it didn’t seem to be coming from in there.  I opened the door very quietly and went in – just to be sure.  “It sounds like it’s outside, Dad.”  We waited and listened again.  Beep.  Not in here.  “Sorry, Bud.  We’ll find it.”

Of course no one’s going to have a smoke detector outside; that’s ridiculous.  But Susan and I had checked and rechecked all of our detectors for the last 20 minutes and found nothing. I opened the front door and listened.  It was pouring rain.

Beep.  A little louder this time.  I walked around the side of the house outside of Zack’s room, and what to my wandering eyes should appear but a smoke detector on a rail of the neighbor’s porch.  His lights were on – apparently another victim of Midnight Battery Failure (MBF).  Oh, I get it.  He took care of his problem by putting it outside.

I picked up the unit and tried to open it to remove the battery.  No can do.  BEEP – much louder now.  Man, it’s wet out here.  Not gonna bring that thing into the house to solve the problem right now.  I stuck the detector in the back seat of my car under some cloth grocery bags.  That’s enough of that.

Went back to bed and dreamed of kicking my neighbor’s butt the next time I’d see him.


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