chirp

I’d been sick for a few days, so when I first heard the noise on Tuesday night, I puzzled over it for about five seconds and then fell asleep. But on Wednesday morning as I came out of the bedroom on my way to take Wylie out for his morning walk, I heard it again.

chirp

Strange, I wonder what that was? It definitely wasn’t Terry. For starters, she’s downstairs and more to the point, this sound had an “electronic” quality to it. Needing to get my day started, I decided to solve the mystery later and took Wylie out for his walk.

A bit more than a mile later, I started getting ready for work. And as I was coming out of the bedroom, there it was again.

chirp

Aha! It must be the smoke detector letting me know the battery’s running low! So I took the smoke detector down so I wouldn’t forget about it, removed the dead battery, and threw it out with the plan of stopping sometime during the day to buy a new one. I never did get away from the office at lunch and ended up working late as well (this, I’m sad to say, is pretty much the norm these days). So I didn’t get a chance to buy a new battery.

As I was getting ready to go to bed that evening, I was in the upstairs hallway and heard it again.

chirp

I thought that was pretty cool. Apparently the smoke detector holds a charge so it can still warn you, even if you have to take the battery out for a few days while you try to find time to replace it. How many other products have that much thought put into them? Not many I can think of!
Thursday morning, it was still going and I was quite impressed at how much the manufacturer cared about its customers.

chirp

That afternoon I got away from the office long enough to buy a package of batteries. Just the generic store brand, but they’ll last a long time. I got home that evening and once I’d taken Wylie out for his “Home from Work” walk, I went upstairs and put the new battery in.

chirp

I thought that was strange. Maybe it needed a little more time before whatever internal system came up to the proper voltage and then the chirper would turn itself off. So I had dinner, watched a movie, read some emails and took Wylie out for his evening walk.

I was headed up the stairs, giving some thought to calling it a night when it happened again.

chirp

Well now, this was starting to get annoying. A few years ago, the downstairs smoke detector started chirping for no apparent reason. Even with fresh batteries, it wouldn’t stop chirping. You do have to replace them every so often, so I’d taken it down and put up a new one. Perhaps the upstairs one was starting to go bad as well. Standing at the top of the stairs, I began weighing my options.

chirp

Hey, that wasn’t coming from the right direction to be the upstairs smoke detector! Son of a gun! Maybe it was the downstairs smoke detector that needed new batteries! That one uses AA cells and I have a good-sized stash of those that I use with the camera.

So I took the downstairs smoke detector off the ceiling, and replaced the batteries in that one too. Hah! Now I wouldn’t have to worry about changing the batteries in either detector for a while. Satisfied, I started to go upstairs.

chirp

At this point, I was starting to really wonder what was going on. Perhaps there was some thing beginning to smolder somewhere? More confusing, the sound didn’t seem to be coming from the right place to be the downstairs smoke detector either.
So I spent about five minutes downstairs, listening for the telltale chirp.

Silence.

I was still confused, but at this point I’d pretty much ruled out the downstairs smoke detector as the culprit. Perhaps there was a robotic cricket that been programmed to add some confusion to my life? With thoughts like that going through my head, I went upstairs and as I passed beneath the upstairs smoke detector…

chirp

I stood there for a few minutes trying to decide where the sound was coming from. Maddeningly, the chirp was only a fraction of a second long and only happened once every 60 to 90 seconds.

chirp

chirp

I finally went back downstairs to the kitchen, got the step stool, and stood in the upstairs hallway with my head a foot from the smoke detector.

chirp

chirp

It definitely wasn’t the smoke detector. That was something of a relief, but that did leave me with the mystery: If it wasn’t the smoke detector, what was chirping? My home office is on the upstairs, and there’s plenty of stuff in there that could chirp (although none of it should be chirping). Maybe the computer’s battery backup needed to be replaced? That would be annoying since it hasn’t been terribly long since the last replacement, but still, better to find out now, before it failed. So I went into the office to listen.

chirp

It was still audible, but it didn’t seem to be coming from anything in the office. The source of the chirping was still a mystery, but at least I wouldn’t have to replace the battery back up right away. So I stood in the hallway again.

chirp

Maybe it was coming from the bedroom? Again, there were a few things in there that could chirp, but nothing that should. Maybe my cell phone was going nuts? Maybe there really was a robotic cricket? So I stood just inside the bedroom door and waited.

chirp

It wasn’t coming from the bedroom. That didn’t leave much. I kind of doubted it was my razor (for starters, since the only outlet is on top of the mirror, I don’t leave it plugged in when it’s not in use). Maybe there was something radically weird happening with the compact fluorescent bulbs in the bathroom? Yes, I actually stood in the bathroom to listen.

chirp

That eliminated both the light bulbs and the razor as sources of the chirp. All that was left was the guest bedroom.

A few of my friends have occasionally made comments in which they referred to me as being some sort of practical joker. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of those claims, but if they are true, then it’s also true that I come by it honestly. My parents are both known to play jokes on their children and it’s well known throughout the family that the best way to tell whether Dad’s pulling your leg is to look to see whether his lips are moving.

Mom and Dad came down to visit in late January. They’re good people and I love them dearly; but I think it’s safe to say that anyone who’s known them for more than three minutes (which is to say, long enough for Dad to start telling one of his tall tales) will certainly understand that at this point, I was beginning to seriously consider the possibility that they were playing a practical joke on me. On a previous visit, Mom left a foot-long plastic lizard buried halfway down through my sock drawer. It therefore wasn’t hard to imagine the possibility that she was an accomplice to Dad leaving some sort of diabolical electronic chirping device hidden in the guest bedroom.

So I stood in the middle of the guest bedroom and I waited. It wasn’t long before my patience was rewarded.

chirp

It was definitely louder. No wonder I hadn’t noticed the chirping before, I keep the guest room door closed when it’s not in use. Trying to narrow down the location of the noisemaker, I went and stood by the closet.

chirp

It was still loud, but it wasn’t coming from the closet. Perhaps it was over by the window?

chirp

Not quite as loud as the closet, it must be closer to the foot of the bed.

chirp

The desk! It was coming from my old desk! I moved a few things off the top of the desk and I listened.

chirp

Definitely the desk, but it wasn’t anything on the top. Maybe one of the side shelves?

chirp

No. Nothing on the shelves was making that sound. Could it be something under the desk?

chirp

Yes! It was definitely something under the desk! I moved an old shirt and listened again.

chirp

A few years ago, the downstairs smoke detector started chirping for no apparent reason. Even with fresh batteries, it wouldn’t stop chirping. You do have to replace them every so often, so I’d taken it down and put up a new one. The problem is, some smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material. Not enough to pose a health risk, even in your house, but they still don’t want you to chuck it into the landfill where it’ll end up in the groundwater.

I’d put the old smoke detector aside until I could figure out the correct way to dispose of it. Amazingly, several years later, the batteries still had enough juice in them that it was still making the periodic chirping sound that had convinced me to replace it in the first place.
This leaves one final mystery: Why the heck didn’t I take the batteries out in the first place?

Addendum: The new smoke detector in the downstairs portion of the house also has a carbon monoxide detector. On top of that, instead of just making a shrieking sound that’ll scare you to death, the new detector features a recording of a woman’s voice which in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide build up will calmly tell you to evacuate the premises immediately.

Dad predicts that I’m going to end up like a friend of his who awoke in the middle of the night to hear a strange woman talking to him about replacing batteries.

Image via Wikipedia by user Tumi-1983 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license