I was in the dining room when I heard the intermittent beeping. I knew it had to be a smoke detector, but I didn’t know which one.
I went to the side door, and heard it again. Basement. Down I went, meeting Christopher’s girlfriend Pammy, 19, emerging from the shower as she chased the noise.
“I’m not sure where it’s coming from,” she said. It went again, right over our heads.
“Oh. It’s the CO detector,” I said, squinting up at the unit. It’s never gone off before. It squawked again. “Are you okay? Do you have a headache or anything?” I asked her. She shook her head.
“I’m going to call the gas company. Get Christopher up and both of you go outside.” Ari was away, or we’d be prying two comatose boys from their beds. As I waited to be connected, I saw Christopher amble down the stairs, t-shirt on inside out, wearing sunglasses.
“Why am I going outside?” he was asking
“So you don’t die, silly,” Pam replied.
The gas company rep didn’t sound nearly concerned enough. He asked if anyone was feeling nauseated or had a headache. I thought for a moment, then said I might be developing a headache. Then again, I might not be. I am highly suggestible. Carbon monoxide is scary, and in a house of two young men, it would be the only odourless gas in the place.
As we spoke, the alarm finally stopped its intermittent teasing and starting wailing full blast. I took the phone to the basement and held it up the device.
“There. That’s what it’s doing,” I explained. Now he had a headache. He told me to open all the windows I could, and get anyone out.
“There are three things you can do,” he explained to me. “You can call the fire department, or you can….” He said some other things, but I was hanging up. I liked the first option, and didn’t see how it could be improved upon. I called the fire department. She said a truck was on its way, and to close all the windows I’d just opened.
I told Pammy that firemen were coming. She ran a brush through her hair, and said it would be okay if she was a little late for work. Christopher asked why she would be late for work. She shrugged prettily.
As three uniformed firemen came up the front step, I glanced around the wrecking yard I have for a living room. I reminded myself they were here on a life or death mission, not to wonder why there is a suitcase in the middle of the floor and a cat cage on the couch. And a mattress leaning up against the wall. And four winter coats on a chair.
“Renos!” I laughed stupidly. It doesn’t look like renos. It looks like a room ready for its own TV show.
They followed me down to the basement, where the detector was still detecting at full throttle. Fireman #1 hit a button, stopping the noise. Guess I could have done that.
Fireman #2 took a reading.
“I’m getting a zero reading. I suggest you replace the device. Sometimes with older units, dust can set them off.“ I considered the dust levels in my house and was surprised that we weren’t in the middle of a smoke and carbon monoxide detector symphony all the time. I apologized for what obviously wasn’t a life or death mission after all.
“Not a problem. We’d rather find this,” he smiled.
No carbon monoxide leak. Firemen. Win win.