Friday, April 23, 2010

Request for Firemen

(That is the smoke/fire detector that gave me so much trouble as described in this entry.)

This story happened in 2008 sometime. Abby was still alive, I know that for sure. I hadn’t moved back home yet. When I lived in my condo, I probably came to my mom’s house a couple of times a month. However, as my dad grew progressively sicker, I came home more often to help them with chores such as going grocery shopping or to the pharmacy for them. On this day, I was going to change the batteries on the fire/smoke detector in the living room. This was one of those rare times that the batteries on the system did not go dead during the middle of the night but instead during midday. In my experience with smoke detectors, the batteries almost always went dead in the middle of the night. Right before those things go dead, they get real fussy and loud, making a shrill piercing noise to alert the homeowner that the time to change the batteries has come. The noise sounds like a sonar ‘ping’ that one hears in movies in scenes involving submarines. And the devices don’t just pop-off the ceiling. It takes work, effort and concentration to achieve a successful removal which is further complicated by my sluggish state in such a late hour. I’ve taken a hammer and knocked some of those things off the ceiling a few times when they have misbehaved in the late night.

Anyway, I thought my mom was lucky not to have to face this ordeal in the middle of the night when they often seem to act up. My luck was about to run out as will be later described.

I brought a small step ladder and some batteries into the living room. The ceilings in the living room are 9ft, and there is no way I could reach that thing unassisted. Once I changed the batteries, I saw a small red light come on. It was working. So far, so good. To make extra sure the unit was working, there was a small button on the face of the detector with the word ‘Test’ right beside it. Silly me pressed it, and immediately, a very loud siren went off followed by a male voice saying ‘Warning, Warning. There is a fire. Please evacuate.’ For those who have seen reruns of the old TV show, Lost in Space, the voice sounded almost exactly like that robot’s on that show. In pure synchrony, Abby and Andy immediately jumped up and hustled down the hall from the den to the master bedroom. That was their ‘safe place’ in times of trouble such as thunderstorms or other disturbances. Fortunately, my mom punched in the code to deactivate the system. We were lucky, or so we thought.
I went to the living room, sat down in the recliner and watched TV. Five minutes later, I heard a low rumbling like that of an engine for a big vehicle. I didn’t hear it pass by the house; it seemed to have stopped at our house. “Shit,” I thought, “I bet that’s the fucking fire department.” I looked out the window, and there were two firemen walking and halfway up the driveway. I went out to greet them, told them the story about the detector, the battery change and the ‘test’ button to which the one fireman smile and said “Well, at least you know your detector works now.” I apologized and they went on their way.

Two weeks later, my mom received a letter from the city stating that if she had another false alarm such as that, the city would fine her $250.
By this stage in her life, Abby was hampered by severe arthritis so she wasn’t able to go and visit the firemen which would have made her very happy. Andy was fine where he was since he has always been scared of strangers. What was so cute about that day was the harmony the way they jumped up in unison and went to their ‘safe place’. There was no way I could have scripted or trained them to have done that. Even though Abby bonded with Father, it was different than what Abby had with Andy. Their relationship was a visceral one, like two people from the same ‘tribe’ so to say. I always wondered if they felt more relaxed with each other because they were labs. Were they aware of the similarities based upon their being the same breed? Did they know they sort of ‘looked alike’?

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