PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

October 27th, 2005

Sound of Crickets

The other morning I began to gradually awaken, like a massive whale slowly approaching the surface to breathe. My eyes cracked open and I read the time projected on the ceiling. It was about 5:30 am, a good half hour until my alarm was set to go off. Why was I waking up? I checked the usual suspects: My wife wasn’t poking me, my bladder wasn’t overly full, I didn’t have a distressed child peering into my face-


Wait. What the hell was that? Did I just hear something?

Did I?

Guess not.


There it was again! What WAS that? I bet it was something the kids left turned on. Part of my daughter’s spy kit, or an electronic timer left on.


Oh crap. Now I recognized it. When we’d moved into our last house, in Eugene, the smoke alarms had been hardwired into the house with a battery backup. When we took possession, the house had been around 50 degrees, and the low battery warning had been chirping just like that. We had no way to reach the smoke alarm, so I had listened to it chirp for about half an hour, slowly going insane. And then it had stopped. I realized later that it had stopped because we had turned on the heat and the house had slowly warmed up. A warm battery produces more juice than a cold battery.


And I could hear the heat coming on, in preparation for hitting a setpoint at 6:00 am. That means that I-


I just had to lay there in bed until the battery in the smoke alarm warmed up a little bit.



Of course, then my alarm went off. Later I mentioned to my wife that we needed to pick up some lithium 9V batteries for the smoke alarms. We had installed all three alarms at the same time when we bought our current house, and they would probably all need to be replaced together. Then I promptly forgot all about it.

Until this morning.


I looked at the ceiling. It was 1:15 am. Damn it! I never replaced that battery, did I? Crap! And there’s no way it’s going to stop this time-


-in fact, I was sure it was going to keep it up all night. So I climbed out of bed, put on my robe and went out into the hallway. I needed to determine which smoke detector was making the noise. It could be the one in the hallway, or the one in the living room. I just had to wait until-


Damn it! The sound was almost completely nondirectional. It could have come from either one. I decided to just go get a battery. I went out to the garage and grabbed a spare 9v battery, then came back into the house. As I walked under the smoke alarm in the living room, it went-


Aha! I knew which one was the culprit now. I pulled a dining room chair over, climbed up on it, and opened the alarm. I yanked the lithium battery out, and carefully snapped a new one in. As the battery terminals made contact with the appropriate connections -


the alarm went off right next to my ear for a couple of seconds. I heard a series of loud thumps from the bedroom and my wife popped into the hallway, looking disheveled and anxious, and altogether uncertain as to how she had managed to teleport from being horizontal in bed to being upright in the hallway. In fact she looked very much like some deep sea specimen that had gotten dragged far too rapidly up into the bright sunlight, not certain how it happened, and not happy about it.

“I thought you heard me get out of bed.” I said, from my perch up on the chair.

“…no…” she mumbled.

“It was a low battery.” I said, fairly obviously.

“…OK…” she said. Then after she checked on the kids (who had of course slept peacefully through the entire episode) we both stumbled back into bed, and slept the rest of the night.

Now I just need to remember to change the other two batteries. Maybe I should write myself a note.

Nah. I’m sure I’ll remember.

October 27th, 2005