Friday, October 1, 2010

Of Fun and Fire Alarms

Note: I originally wrote the following as an email sent to one of my friends, but then decided to share it here since it involves ridiculousness and Sampson -- two things that I happen to know you guys just can't get enough of. Just a warning, the language isn't really kid appropriate and some people may find it offensive. And this post has nothing to do with CF. Or transplant. Or breath in general. This one is all about life, baby. Well, life and a malfunctioning fire alarm, but that's just not as catchy. Enjoy.

it's 5:46. am. and i'm awake. writing you emails. and, considering that i have no job and thus rarely get up before about 9 am, i feel like this probably requires an explanation. luckily, i have one. and it's good.

the reason that i am awake and writing you emails has nothing to do with my inability to sleep. nor does it have anything to do with you. or with sampson. or, quite frankly, with any of the 9,876,542 legitimate reasons one might have for being awake and writing emails at a godforsaken time in the pre-dawn hours. i am not, for example, rushing to catch a 6 am plane. nor am i sick and on my way to the hospital via ambulance and/or helicopter. it has nothing to do with a natural disaster or the apocalypse.

nope, it has nothing to do with any of these reasons. what it does have to do with is a motherfucking battery.

i think.

roughly speaking, the story goes like this: at about 4:30 this morning, i was awakened by a very loud, very high-pitched, and very repetitive noise echoing throughout my not-so-very-large apartment. this was problem #1, and (given the fact that even very sleepy pipers have the logical reasoning capacity to realize that alarm = bad, although i freely admit that tends to be the extent of my skills at that hour) this problem provoked an immediate response in the form of movement from the bed into the kitchen/living room, aka the source of the noise and the location of BOTH of the two alarms in my apartment. um, yeah. we'll discuss the logic of placing two smoke/carbon monoxide alarms in a 3+ room apartment and concentrating both in the same room later. brilliant.

so anyway, i go into my living room. and i go in there alone -- meaning without my dog, who chooses instead to remain behind in my bed with his head (no joke) somewhat buried under my comforter. in other words, any delusions i might have had about guard dog grandeur go straight out my 18th story window. sigh. but i digress...

back to the point. okay, so i'm in the living room. and the first thing i notice is that there is 1) no fire, 2) no clear signs of a fire in another location, such as smoke, heat, or large men in red raincoats. this is a good thing, in theory, except that it leaves me with no explanation for the still-wailing alarm aside from either malfunction or carbon monoxide, neither of which sound like entirely pleasant options. i open the door to my hallway and discover that no alarms appear to be going off in any of the other apartments, which means it's just me disturbing the peace. lovely. i contemplate leaving the door to my apartment open on the theory that if i can't sleep, no one else should either (and by "no one else" i may or may not mean the devil child down the hall in particular), but neighborly goodness wins out in the end and i retreat back into the apartment and close the door. i deserve a medal for being nice. even worse, the noise appears to have gotten louder during my brief stint in the hallway. maybe it's relative. i think it's more likely a conspiracy of badness against me. yeah, that's right: a conspiracy of badness. you read it here first.

to add to the fun, sampson has heard the door opening and closing during my departure from the apartment. and apparently his fear of being left alone is greater than his fear of loud noises, because my big brave boy has now come into the hallway and is looking frantically at the door. when i return, he bolts into the hallway. okay, fine, except that i clearly have to close to the door to keep up the general misconception on my floor that i am, in fact, a nice person rather than a raging bitch who enjoys torturing her neighbors with loud noise at 4 am. which leaves me with two options: either close the door and leave the dog in the hallway, or call the dog back into the apartment and close him in with me. normally, of course, this is a no-brainer, but as i may have mentioned, my apartment at this point in time is really fucking loud. and my dog has just proven himself terrified of the loudness, so it seems kind of cruel to make him come back inside. in the end, i opt to allow him to stay outside the door while i go back in to deal with the noise. exeunt the shorkie, stage left.

the next step is obvious: call the building doormen and whine. so i do. and proceed to have the following conversation with my doorman:

doorman: huh, i can hear the alarm going off [by which he means he can hear it over the intercom because, as i have already pointed out, my apartment is REALLY fucking loud].
piper: yeah. i don't really know how to fix it, or even what the problem is.
doorman: is there a fire?
piper: i mean there's no smoke, there's no smell, and i don't see any fire. it's not a very big apartment.
doorman: is there any carbon monoxide?
piper: i don't know.
doorman: well can you smell it?
piper: carbon monoxide doesn't smell. that's why you need an alarm.
doorman: oh. well, i can hear it...

and so on.

it finally gets resolved that the doorman will send up a maintenance man, which would be great except he prefaces this declaration with the warning "but i doubt he'll be able to do much and i can't get anyone else here until morning. can you maybe just go to sleep?" mind you, this is after he has repeatedly mentioned that he can hear the alarm loud and clear even through the intercom. i kindly inform him that ignoring the disturbance until morning isn't really an option. then i hang up and begin considering dog-friendly alternate housing arrangements. at which point i become vaguely aware that there is yet another noise now competing with the alarm. similar in tone, annoyance, and general volume, this second noise is somewhat lower in pitch and appears to be coming from the hallway. so i walk in its general direction, and finally open the apartment door, which swings smack into a loudly HOWLING sampson.

so much for my neighbor of the year award. are. you. kidding. me?

the shorkie comes back in with me, then proceeds to jump up on his purple chair and commence shaking and crying. meanwhile the maintenance man arrives [his first words are "holy cow, it's loud in here!"] and requests a ladder. i give him a folding chair. after about 5 minutes of staring at the machine and occasionally poking it with his index finger, he returns to the floor and announces that he doesn't understand the problem, but will return shortly with a battery. he asks whether the alarm was going off when i went to bed. to ask this he literally has to shout at me, and i'm standing less than 2 feet away. why does the entire apartment staff seem to think that i'm capable of sleeping through this alarm? again, i say a polite no and resist the urge to point out that 1) it's really, REALLY fucking loud, and 2) it clearly WOKE ME UP, which means it probably wasn't going off before i woke up. the guy leaves in search of a battery. sampson continues to cry. i suddenly feel much more charitable toward people who use the expression "fuck my life."

fast forward about 10 minutes. the man has returned with a battery and is once again on a chair in my hallway. the shorkie has escaped out the door again and is sitting outside by the elevator bank. in an attempt to strike a balance between playing hostess to the maintenance man and being a responsible dog owner, i am also sitting in the hallway in my pajamas and occasionally pulling open my apartment door to stare at the guy on the chair and listen to him shout at me that he doesn't know how to turn off the alarm. which, you know, i could probably have guessed by myself, considering that the alarm is still going off. he also wonders how the alarm is able to continue terrorizing the entire apartment even without batteries. this is, in fact, one of the great mysteries of life, and i agree with him that it's stupid. if i want to remove my alarm's batteries and risk dying a fiery death, shouldn't it be my right to do so in relative peace and silence? also, given the fact that the alarm has now been blaring for well over 20 minutes and not a single person has emerged from another apartment, i'd say the argument that my alarm going off somehow protects other people in the building is more or less bullshit. clearly my so-called "neighbors" care nothing for me or for their own safety. next time i'm leaving the door open for sure.

five minutes later the maintenance man stops complaining about the noise long enough to replace the battery and the alarm stops. kind of. maybe? well, slows down anyway. basically the alarm goes from a constant blaring noise that is really, really, REALLY fucking loud to a more dignified single beep that is only kind of fucking loud every 2 minutes or so. which improvement is clearly good enough for the maintenance man, as he immediately jumps off the ladder and heads for the hills. as he reaches the elevator i venture to ask whether the building will send up someone more familiar with the alarm system in the morning. (or someone with a sledge hammer. i'm really not picky at this point.) he seems surprised and asks why i would need such a thing. the alarm beeps, triggering loud barking from sampson, who has decided that this more manageable noise is not as scary and therefore constitutes a chance to show off his manly courage in the face of any and all intruders. i am less than impressed. the maintenance man nods knowingly and promises to send someone up, but warns me it might be noon or later before they can get there. he advises me to go back to sleep. sampson growls warningly at the impudent alarm, and i wonder which of them is the inherently dumber creation before sampson begins licking my feet protectively. oh well, at least he's cute.

so now i'm in my apartment with a sort-of-tolerable alarm which may or may not have a problem other than the battery and a sort-of-lovable puppy who may or may not be the least brave animal on the planet, contemplating whether is hould attempt to go back to bed or just give up and make a shitload of coffee instead. all of which goes toward explaining why i'm sending this email at 6:06 am. and why i'm really, really excited to move.



  1. Ugh, that is the suckiest suck that ever sucked, Piper.

    We had that happen with our carbon monoxide detector a month ago and it send our schnauzer into fits of fearful convulsion. Maybe he and Sampson need Xanax? Do they make it in doggy portions?

    Hope you are sleeping it off, my friend.

  2. Holy laughing!!! I laugh because a few months ago Peter had to race around our house trying to figure out which smoke alarm was beeping. Mind you we have smoke alarms and CO2 detectors at both bedrooms and in the hallway. At 3 am trying to figure out which of the 5 is actually beeping is NO fun!

    And the alarm can work without batteries because they are hardwired to send them all off in the apartment if there is a codes :)

    I hope someone came and before noon to get it to stop!!!! And poor Sammie-bear :( And your ears too of course!!!

  3. Piper have I told you how much I love your writing? Hol-eeee crap I was laughing myself silly reading about your latest adventures in apartment life. I can't tell you the number of times I shoved a broom handle into my smoke detector to shut it up when the batteries malfunctioned. At 3 a.m., if there is no evidence of fire, I have no problem smashing the thing to pieces just to get some sleep! I hope Sammy isn't too traumatized.

  4. Piper.... this is hilarious (David Sedaris comes to mind)--- Write a book my friend.. write a book.

  5. I'm not laughing at you...I'm laughing with you, my dear!

  6. OMG We had a similar instance in the middle of the night not to long ago. But our phantom alarm went off, as if their was a fire, and then stopped all by itself.

    I ended up calling the fire department the next day. They sent an entire crew, including the captain, 4 of his men and a fire truck to the rescue. All they ended up doing was replacing my batteries. Good times!

  7. ROTFLOL. Hope you got to sleep in this morning!

  8. I think everyone has had some sort of experience of annoyance with Fire Alarms along the years, although this was quite the hilarious tale! Still it's important to know they're working!