Monday, April 04, 2011

Alarm bells.

Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
| Posted: Monday, April 4, 2011

Last Thursday night started out like most Thursday nights at the Huffman house. The girls were a little tired. Mom was a lot tired. We were in the final sprint, ready to lunge across the weekly finish line. All I could think about was making it to Friday and the weekend.

That is, until the smoke alarm went off.

Now this wasn’t the helpful single chirp of a low battery. This was a sustained, unrelenting, eardrum-piercing alarm.

What is that?, the girls yelled from another room.

Scrambling from our bedroom, I ran downstairs. The alarm continued to blare, echoing through the house. It was so loud, I couldn’t even figure out what room it was coming from.

When a smoke alarm goes off, this mom starts imagining the worst — for example, the house is actually on fire.

Normally, Dad would come to our rescue. But there was one problem. Dad was at a meeting that Thursday night.

We were on our own.

I scurried from room to room to try and find which alarm was screaming. Bedroom? No.

Kitchen, always a likely suspect, especially when someone has burnt a bag of microwave popcorn? No.

Living room? No.

Dashing across the hallway, the noise got louder. It was in the girls’ room upstairs. The one with the 11-foot-high vaulted ceilings.

Inside the bedroom, the alarm was beyond loud. It was brain-freezing loud. I could barely stand to be in the room, let alone figure out how to reach the alarm on the ceiling and make it stop. What I wouldn’t have given to become that superhero with the stretchy arms at that moment.

Just my luck — the girls are “redecorating” their room, and just one week earlier they had begged us to take down their bunk beds, which would have provided oh-so-easy access to the blaring alarm. Without the bunk beds, I was out of luck.

Ladder. We need a ladder, I yelled at the girls, who had retreated away from the bedroom with the dog.

The biggest ladder I could think of was one of those 20-foot aluminum sliding ladders, which was hanging on the side of our garage. Outside. In the dark. And the rain. To make matters worse, to the girls, the garage is known as a notorious spider zone. They hate to go anywhere near the spider zone, let alone on a dark and rainy night.

Wearing my flannel jammies, robe and a pair of rain boots, I practically dragged my oldest daughter outside, where she bravely grabbed one end of the dusty ladder. Even from outside I could hear the alarm wailing inside.

We headed back inside with the ladder. The ladder was so long we had to make three-point turns at every corner just to get it upstairs. And when we did get it into the girls’ bedroom, the ladder was too long to turn upright to even try and reach the alarm.

The alarm was still screaming. I wanted to scream too.

We need a smaller ladder, I yelled. Let’s get the folding ladder in the backyard!

Hauling in the second ladder left a trail of dead leaves, muck and bits of dirt on my nice clean carpet. Wonderful.

Dragging it upstairs, I couldn’t figure out how to open it between their twin beds so I could try and reach the alarm.

I abandoned the ladder and retreated downstairs with the girls.

I texted my husband.

Smoke alarm going off, I wrote. Can’t get it to stop.

Be right there, he said.

Of course, that’s when the alarm stopped.

There was silence. Blessed silence.

About 15 minutes later my husband arrived home. The aluminum ladder was on the front lawn. The yellow ladder was upstairs. I think the dog was still hiding.

It was really loud, I said, following him upstairs. Really.

I bet, he said.

With one snap he opened the ladder, climbed up and pulled the alarm off the ceiling.

Next time someone asks to redecorate that room, those bunk beds are coming back.


CM said...

I'm glad it wasn't a fire, whatever set it off...

CM said...

Nice writing, BTW. Really tight and to the point.