I managed to start the New Year off with a rather embarrassing event. It was Monday morning, just the second day of 2017. Willow had spent the night at my apartment and I decided to fry up a couple eggs for her breakfast. We both like our eggs “over easy.” She gobbled them up and life was good – until a smoke detector went off.
I was immediately perplexed by this, because by this time it was a good twenty or thirty minutes after the eggs had been cooked and the stove top burner turned off. Okay, no problem, find the offending detector and press the button to make it stop, right? I found one in the living room, but it didn’t seem to be making the noise. There was another in the hallway, also not making any noise. A third in Willow’s room, a fourth in my room, and a fifth in the office – none of which appeared to be making the piercing noise. What’s interesting is this: As if the truly ear-piercing beeping weren’t enough, you also catch this calm female voice, almost too quiet to hear, stating “Fire. Fire. Fire…” long pause… “Fire. Fire. Fire…” over and over again. Never mind that what this voice was saying was entirely inaccurate – there was no fire.
By this time I could hear the landlady downstairs moving around, no doubt concerned about what was going on. I opened the door to the stairwell leading to the outside of my apartment and discovered I have a SIXTH smoke detector on the ceiling there. Now comes the hard part: There is no landing at the top of the stairs, just the door leading directly into my apartment, and the ceiling is very high – which means you can’t reach the smoke detector!
The landlady opens the door at the bottom of the stairwell to inquire as to what’s happening. Over the din I say it was the eggs and I’m trying to figure out how to turn the detector off. I finally grab a broom and use the handle to reach up and press the button. The alarm stops, and yet I can still hear it echoing somehow – a distant two-fold echo. Then I realize if a detector goes off in one unit, detectors go off in the other two units as well. I rent the second floor of a lovely old house, the landlady lives on the first floor, and a young woman lives in a third unit above the garage. To make matters worse, the landlady had company visiting. The young woman also had company visiting. This was mortifying.
And then the detectors all began sounding their alarms AGAIN!
Okay, so this time it didn’t go on as long as the first time because I knew which detector it was, and I’m pretty nimble with the broom handle. But how many more times might it go off? We needed to disable the thing for good, at least temporarily. The landlady grabs a stepladder from her garage, but positioning it at the top of the stairs doesn’t work because the angle’s all wrong and you still can’t reach the detector.
So then we close the stepladder, position just one side of it on the top stair, and the landlady holds the other side of it while I go up onto its second step, twist the detector off its mount, and pull out the wires. Yes, for this kind of system to work the way it needs to, the detectors are hard-wired throughout the house. Finally! No more piercing noises or eerily calm female voices saying “Fire. Fire. Fire.”
But it begs the question: Why did a smoke detector behind a closed door in the stairwell go off only 20-30 minutes after I had cooked the eggs? Then I realized that while I was cooking the eggs I did turn on the hood vent. Opening the cabinets above the stove, I could see there is a real vent pipe leading up and away from the hood vent. The only thing I can think is that if the vent pipe is leaky, smoke from the stove could have found it’s way into the walls perhaps, and that would be in the general vicinity of the stairwell.
Note to self: The next time I fry eggs, I’ll just open the kitchen windows! Or even better, go to my favorite diner instead (which is Timoleon’s for the Elm City Breakfast). Sheesh!