Sounding the Alarm

The people who owned my house before I bought it had the ridiculous notion that if one of something is a good thing, ten of that thing is even better.  While that logic might be true with, say, jelly beans or dollars, it does not extrapolate to things like children, time in a tanning bed, or smoke detectors.

My house, when I purchased it, had eight – eight! – smoke detectors on the upper level alone.  Before I moved to St. Augustine full time, it seemed that every time I came to stay, a smoke detector would decide in the middle of the night that its battery was running low.  Do you know how frustrating it is trying to figure out which alarm has the dead battery when there are four smoke detectors in one hallway and the shrieks are two minutes apart?  For years, I despised the previous owners.  I couldn’t understand that level of paranoia.  Were they worried about their three-year-old son smoking in bed?  But this week, I think I know what happened.

My son is home for Spring Break, and yesterday, I spent the day in Cocoa Beach signing books.  He called me around lunchtime to say that Pancho, our three-legged Australian shepherd, was acting strange.  One of the smoke detectors in the upstairs hallway (there are only three in that hallway now because I successfully disabled one of them) was shrieking because its battery was low, and Pancho apparently thought those noises meant the world was ending.

I told my son to look in the kitchen drawer for a 9-volt battery, but when I got home four hours later, he wasn’t home, Pancho was outside, and the smoke detector was still making noise.  I changed the battery and then tried to bring Pancho inside, but he refused.  It took a bag of Lay’s Kettle Chips to lure him back into the house.  (Incidentally, the dachshunds, who bark at the pool when the pump turns on and the water begins to move, were unbothered by the severe shrieks coming from the smoke detector).

I told the story to my parents at breakfast, and my dad said that the same thing happened at their house last week.  My mom was at a neighbor’s, and her dog, Bambi, the corpulent Chihuahua, began to tremble and started cowering behind the sofa in fear.  “I couldn’t hear the noise,” he said, “So I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.”

Did you catch that?  My dad COULDN’T HEAR the equivalent of thirty-three middle school girls catching a glimpse of Justin Bieber.

Two years ago, we went to see the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary concert.  The only two people in the whole amphitheater not standing and singing along were my dad and a guy tethered to a wheel chair by an oxygen tank.  Dad was sitting with his hands behind his ears trying to make out the words.

After hearing Dad’s story, I decided to be kinder to my home’s previous owners.  Obviously, they went overboard installing smoke detectors because someone in the house was nearly deaf.

My daughter is graduating from New York University at the end of May.  The ceremony will be held in Yankee Stadium, and Martin Scorsese is to be the commencement speaker.  We’ve all told my dad he’s not allowed to go on the trip unless he gets a hearing aid, but his response is much like the lines to a Jimmy Buffett song – “losing his hearing, but he don’t care what most people say.”*  He just shrugs and says he doesn’t miss much by not being able to hear.

But this is different.  Doesn’t he want to hear Martin Scorsese’s words of wisdom to the graduating class?  Or the conversation during our family’s celebration dinner?  If not that, surely he wants to be able to follow along when we all go to a Broadway show.  Hell, at this point, I’d just be glad for him to hear the fireworks at the NYU graduation.

The problem is that he is as likely to get a hearing aid as a teenage boy is to change the battery in a smoke detector.  So please do me a favor.  If you think my dad should get a hearing aid before our trip to New York, would you leave a comment below encouraging him to do that?

If he won’t, we’ll have to spend the hearing aid money installing nine new smoke detectors in their house.


*From “He Went to Paris”

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