Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Think about it for a minute, then go do something.

As I lay in bed one recent evening, about to fall asleep, a piercing alarm shattered the quiet. Even though it was late, I shot out of bed, my feet barely touching the floor as I ran to see where this noise was coming from and turn it off before everyone was awake. Five ear piercing electronic blasts lasting nearly two seconds a piece came from the other end of the house.

Fortunately, the alarm did not wake the kids. Unfortunately, before I could get to the source, the house went silent again. The eardrum splitting alarm was gone. I sat still and quiet, holding my breath as if I could catch the perpetrator if it did not realize I was there; but to no avail, no beep, screech, or alarm was forthcoming.

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, you know the dilemma we are now facing. We know that there is a malfunction in one of the many alarms we have in our home and we can probably guess it is a dead battery, but without being next to it, we can’t tell which one it is. We also know that this isn’t probably the last time this alarm wails, history tells us that we can expect more to follow. Going to bed now would be pointless, we need to formulate a plan to conquer this problem.

So my wife and I developed a strategic system to figure out which alarm was the culprit. She positioned herself in one room under an alarm and I was near another. I know this isn’t the most sophisticated system, but it was almost midnight, what do you expect? Five minutes went by, then ten, and soon I lost my focus and started wandering the house. Recognizing my wandering as weakness, it was then that the mystery alarm momentarily revealed itself. My wife rushed out of the room she was in and said, “It wasn’t that one, was it yours?”

Unfortunately, because I was out of position, I still could not tell which alarm was the culprit. I sheepishly shrugged.

“What do you mean you don’t know, you were sitting right next to it!?!?”

I explained that I had wandered and she said, “You left your post?” in a tone that sounded more like hurt astonishment than question.

I knew at this point that the mystery was now mine to own. I positioned myself near an alarm to continue the process of elimination. Another half hour passed before the squeal let loose and we were able to identify the exact alarm. I dutifully climbed up on a chair and changed out the battery. Now you may be asking yourself at this point, why didn’t you just change all the batteries? Well, good question, but my simple response is that I only had one new battery remaining and I didn’t want to run to the store at midnight to buy new nine volts. Unfortunately, this decision was moot as it turned out not to be a battery problem at all. In fact, when I was changing the battery, it set off all of the smoke alarms, including the one’s the children’s room. Our daughter, somehow, didn’t wake (oh, how we’d all love to sleep that heavy again, right?). Our son woke up and in a worried voice said, “Mommy, what’s happening?”

“The smoke alarms are going off and we’re trying to figure out how to turn them off,” she calmly responded.

As he drifted back off to sleep, he simply said, “Well, think about it for a minute and then go do something,” great advice for so many problems.

After more than an hour of wrestling with the mystery, we eventually just had to turn off the breaker to the alarms completely to fix the problem (before I get an inbox full of warnings, we went out and bought a battery operated smoke detector to use until we get this situation fixed, thanks for your concern). Our alarms still don’t work properly, but don’t worry, I am going to think about this problem for a minute and then I’ll go do something.

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