Saturday, December 6, 2008


It is three fifteen A.M. when I first notice I'm awake. The ambient temperature in the bedroom is cool and I pull the blanket higher and snuggle deeper into my big foam pillow. I lift my head to catch a glimpse of the lighted clock dial on my bedside radio. Nothing biological is giving me any warning signals. Then I hear it, a single high pitched electronic beep. It is a familiar sound. Another thirty seconds passes and there it is again. Somewhere in the darkness a tiny alarm is sounding. I push back my warm nesting material and climb out of the hole I've pressed in the space age Swedish foam covering the top of my mattress. I teeter in my half sleep and move through the darkness to try and find my flip-flops. Two possibilities, Bebe's cell phone, or the low battery signal of one of several smoke alarms. My brain boots up and I stand in the darkness trying to use my bat senses to locate the needy unit. My deductive reasoning starts into auto mode. The beep is too loud for Bebe's phone. That's good. Her phone is usually buried deep in the recesses of her purse and once you locate the purse your real job begins, finding the dying phone amongst all the necessary items she has there. So it must be the smoke alarm. I stand in the hallway and close the bedroom door so Bebe won't awaken. I don't know why because to my memory she has never heard one of these early morning beeps. My first instinct is to go to the junk drawer and see if we have any nine volt batteries. If not, perhaps a well placed shot from my nine millimeter will quiet the incessant irritation. Aha, one battery left. Now to the garage to retrieve the six foot Aluminum step ladder. It is an older vintage ladder, light weight but with the strength of a modern beer can. A little red light blinks periodically on the smoke detection alarm located just outside my bedroom door. The ceiling in this part of the house is twelve feet. I push my brain into math mode and figure if I stand on the rung next to the top one and stretch back with my extended right arm I should be able to grip the plastic case. I set up the ladder on the slippery polished tile of the hallway and begin my ascent. As my right leg pushes the remaining two hundred and thirty pounds of my accumulated mass skyward my thigh reminds me of the leg workout I did yesterday afternoon, I wince with each successive push. The ladder twists ever so slightly with my every move. Only my shins are pressed against the top rung. I attempt a backwards reach with my right hand, my left hand is in firm contact with the top rung of the ladder. I am short. I stand full height and pretend there is a net below the ladder of sufficient strength to catch me if I go into an uncontrollable wobble. I manage to twist the plastic case with my right hand and reach back with my left and unplug the electrical wires from the unit. I'm now ready to replace the battery. I open the plastic hatch and see a yellow nine volt battery. It is the cheap kind you get at the dollar store. I replace it with its cheap cousin I found in the junk drawer. I manage the task in reverse this time and slowly descend the ladder. I'm once again on Terra Firma. I wonder as I put away the tools and discard the old battery why the batteries never go out during the day? I always change them in the wee hours of the morning. I'm sure it's some government mandated regulation having to do with productivity and not having to stop tasks to change batteries. I might as well post now, I'm up.