Thursday, April 3, 2008

Smoke signals a desperate housewife

*deep breath*

I made meat loaf last night in a slightly-too-small pan and some of the topping oozed over and fell to the oven floor. That is where tonight's story begins and I'll agree that it starts with me.  Of course by tonight I have forgotten about the spilled-upon oven floor and wish to bake some frozen french fries to accompany my microwaved leftover meat loaf (no vegetable; sorry Mom. Oh wait, technically potatoes might count.) In my haste to eat I forgot to execute the usual necessary precautions when the oven is in use: open the kitchen window and turn on the room fan. At the very least. Why is this necessary every single time you use the oven you ask? Well, I'll tell you. We don't have a vent over our stove/oven. Not only that, we have hyper-vigilant smoke alarms that are all HARDWIRED (means no battery except for back-up) and CONNECTED to each other. I used all CAPS so you could see which words were the important ones.

I'm sure you can guess where this is headed. But since this is the Super household, we do things in a super big way.

Let me be clear: I NEVER EVEN OPENED THE OVEN DOOR. The oven heated to 450 degrees, at which point I realized my foolish mistake (#2, if you're counting) and tried too late to turn on fans and fling open windows. It was nearly exactly at the point I realized my old meat loaf sauce was burning that the smoke alarmS screamed FIRE FIRE THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE to anyone in our neighborhood who cared to listen (as if they had a choice.) And when I say our smoke alarms 'screamed' that isn't too far from the truth. A calm, female voice urgently declares, "fire. fire." between deafening shrill bursts of sound.

Our house is under 1000 square feet. There are six rooms. There are five smoke alarms. Each alarm emits 85 decibels. One of the completely brilliant things about these smoke alarms is that they are all connected to each other! If one alarm goes off, they ALLLLL go off. That way if there's a fire in one room, then the alarm in a different room can let us know about it! (Keep in mind the size of the house.) These alarms also have a nifty thing called hush mode. This was designed so that when you DO have a kitchen mishap and are well aware of the smoke particles wafting throughout the house you can tell the alarm to just knock it off already, you know very well what's going on and you are much more capable of accessing this particular situation than it is. These are all good characteristics to have in smoke alarms - really! However, I question the necessity of FIVE smoke alarms in a house that is very nearly one big room itself.

So. It is nearly nine in the evening. Kem has been asleep for over an hour. Cue smoke. Beck dashes about in horror, attempting to turn the situation around before all hel-too late. Kitchen alarm sounds. Within seconds, every other alarm in the house sounds. Beck turns off the oven. Beck leaps atop a rolly and spinny computer chair to jab the kitchen alarm into hush mode. The kitchen alarm hushes for .7 seconds and then is re-started because one of the other alarms (front room or mud room) has now detected the smoke on their own. Beck calmly grabs a broom and drags a kitchen chair into the front room to stand on while stabbing at the front room smoke alarm with the end of the handle. Of course this alarm has been placed at the highest point in the whole house. The front room alarms stops for .3 seconds before being reminded by the kitchen alarm that smoke is still permeating the atmosphere. And so I begin a ridiculous dance that lasts OVER TEN MINUTES, rushing from room to room, jabbing alarms over and over again, trying to get them all on hush mode before one of the other ones realizes that, OMG the house is totally on fire! Sound the alarm! thus disrupting any progress towards hush mode I've made with any other alarm because they're all hardwired together.

As much as it makes me cringe I had no choice but to fling open the front window and door and back door as well as the kitchen window. Hello, neighbors! Happy Thursday evening to you all! Please don't call the fire department, really. No fire here! Just some burned meat loaf sauce. Don't you think I'd make it stop if I knew how? Of course I would! I'm sure it's quite the entertaining spectacle for them as I continue in my futile efforts to please just make it stoooooop.

It seems like an eternity has passed. I can't even hear myself think. I realize it's not quite nine o'clock yet and so therefore I'm still able to contact Superman. Perhaps he will have an idea. His phone is off. He told me he wanted to get to bed early. I leave him a message, wondering if he will be able to even pick out my words from amidst the noise of five smoke alarms sounding simultaneously. Sweet dreams, dear husband!

My next call goes to Rufulo. He's the one that installed the smoke alarms to begin with - HE should know what to do. I get his voicemail too, but just as I'm about to leave my desperate message the alarms taper off, one by one. Apparently the smoke has diminished to an acceptable level.  I leave my message anyhow, in the blaring silence, begging him to please tell me what circuit he has them on so in the future I can just flip the switch in the breaker box and be done with it.

Amazingly, Kem did not wake up a single time despite all five alarms sounding at once. This is completely true. I know I'll be campaigning for the personalized voice alarms in Kem's room ASAP. They're only $30 here and I say that's well-worth the potentially life-saving difference it could make.

My ears are still ringing.


  1. Dwain the bathtub! « DelApril 3, 2008 at 11:03 PM

    [...] since the great Fire Alarm Event of ‘08 I’ve been more than a little hesitant to use the oven. This rather dampens my [...]

  2. I was stressed out just reading it!

  3. Many states require that smoke detectors be hardwired together for safety. Of course, you as the homeowner can change least if you were in Texas you could, not so sure about California.We have the same issue in our house. It seems that if we can stop the particular alarm that started the whole chain reaction, then the others will calm down accordingly. -Taylor

  4. *files away information for the future*

  5. Am I a bad person? By the end of reading your story I was laughing pretty hard. This week at work I felt just like you; running in circles around turning off fire alarms.

  6. I don't think I was insensitive to smoke alarms while sleeping when I was a kid... though I can't remember a specific instance of being awoken by one; I just sort of have this vague idea that I heard them.Oh, and you're right; those things are LOUD!Great writing style, by the way.