Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 7, 2016

Where’s there’s smoke, there’s an annoyance

I Swear

Vic Fleming

The following is a true story. It happened to my good friend John Doe. I stress this, so that no one else’s insurance agents will come snooping around with threats to cancel their homeowners’ coverage.

Doe had the nicest little smoke alarm installed on the ceiling in his kitchen. The problem was that the device was just too darn sensitive. Overcook a piece of toast, broil a chicken breast, cook a waffle well-done – bingo!

This little white circle on the ceiling wailed and squealed with a noise obnoxiousness matched only, perhaps, by the sound of a runt shoat caught under a garden gate.

There is a recognized fix to this, the unwanted triggering of the safety device that must be maintained. And that is to somehow blow clean air right at the center of the circle. This could be accomplished in a number of ways. 

The most efficient method is to use one of those canned-air containers that techies use to dust keyboards and other computer-related crevices. This may also be the most difficult procedure, as there’s just never a can of air in the kitchen when one needs it.

Another method is simply to fan air at the thing, as with a newspaper or a paper plate or even a dry dish towel. That said, though, the pause in the cooking process to silence the smoke alarm is a far cry from the pause that refreshes. Indeed, it has the opposite effect and then some. 

Something on the stove that was just about to be cooked perfectly either stays there too long (ironically burning in some instances) or is removed and placed to the side. Either way, the cooking process is impeded and the chef discombobulated.

And so it came to pass on a certain day that John Doe was making pancakes. Predictably, off went the alarm. Surprising himself, Doe quickly hopped on a chair, twisted the alarm off its bracket, blew it silent with a burst of human breath, and then deposited it somewhere in his garage. And forgot about it – good riddance, “Bye, Felicia!”

Recently, as John drank his coffee one morning, he heard a distant and faint “cheep” sound. He was put in mind of a tennis shoe skid on a hardwood floor. He dismissed it.  As he left the kitchen, though, he could have sworn that he heard it again.

Next day, he heard the phantom sound again. Twice, three times, maybe. Each time he attributed it to something logical happening in the distance – a cell phone, tablet, laptop, bird in the yard; the neighbor’s kid in the driveway.

But then he stepped into the garage to get something from his car. And he heard the “cheep” again, clearer this time. And he knew immediately that the battery was going dead on the smoke alarm. But he didn’t remember where he had laid the alarm.  

Sixty seconds later another cheep took him to the other side of the garage, near the woodpile. Another minute passed, and when the device cheeped a third time, he found it, under some winter golf clothes on a small table. 

He unsnapped the 9-volt battery from the device and got on with his day.