Friday, 5 June 2009

An Alarming Tale - or Three Knights and a Dog

Oh drama, oh horror, oh what-could-have-happened anxiety in the night! About ten o'clock last night, just as the dog and I were about to go out for our last walk (which would have been brief, let me tell you, as it was so cold outside that socks and central heating had been required all afternoon) I heard someone's house alarm go off. Very normal for round here, where people like to let their neighbours know whenever they are opening their front doors or their cars.

But it wasn't outside, it was indoors - in my house. In my hall and also upstairs in the spare room, to be precise. Not the full eardrum-bursting racket of an outdoor alarm, but loud enough to be thoroughly nerve-racking, and accompanied by a distinctly chemical smell of burning in the bedroom. The main control box for the alarm, which for some mysterious reason is in the bedroom and not the electrics cupboard under the stairs, had black marks round it, and was smoking slightly, as well as emitting nasty smells and loud, assaultive sounds. It was also a matter of moments before the landing smoke alarm went off too, just to send me completely mad.

And could I get the front
panel of the control box off? No. And could I remember the alarm code for the key pad downstairs? No. And could I find the instructions? No. Me, the person who always knows where the torch, the candles, the matches are, and where to turn the water or the power off in an emergency, now a helpless hand-wringing ninny. I had ignored that alarm for years, never using it since I inherited the bouncing, furniture-leaping dog, and now, as punishment, I was completely foiled by two shrieking plastic boxes and a bad smell, surely the harbinger of death by toxic fumes in the next five minutes.

And so I rang Roger and Tim, because they are Truly Wonderful People always willing and able to help, and not at all because they are less likely than my other neighbours to be in bed at 10 p.m. They arrived in moments, shining armour worn sensibly beneath their warm clothing, expressions serious and manly, to wrestle with the front of the control box (screwdriver required for cleverly-hidden screw underneath the box - who designs these things?), take out the very hot acid gel battery, and to advise calling an alarm engineer when the noise didn't stop. Calm and common sense were restored to me once the potential cause of fire and hideous death was removed and we knew that the engineer would be arriving within 30 minutes.
The engineer's wife had to get him in from the garden where he was watering the plants in the near-dark, he had to get the ladders on the van, and drive across the city to reach me, but what a cheerful and pleasant chap when he got here!

Unfortunately, the dog had been thrilled to see Tim and Roger, and had scuttled about getting in the way at close quarters while Roger performed his heroic hot battery-removal, thereby setting off his allergic reaction to dogs. Much cartoon-style sneezing ensued, rattling the windows and loosening Roger's head a little - yes, I saw it wobble. As we said goodbye in between enormous ah-ah-ah-ah-CHOO!!s, the over-excited kitten escaped into the street, to run about under parked cars, try to stalk a student walking home dragging a suitcase on wheels, stand defiantly in the middle of the road in the best position for an alarm engineer's van - with ladders - to squash her flat. It took ten minutes to get her back.

Eventually calm and order were restored; Roger went home to rattle his own windows, the kitten was captured and dragged indoors, protesting in a squeaky voice about how no one else's mum makes them come in so early, I remembered the alarm code number, and Brian the sainted engineer arrived to sort everything out before midnight.

There's a moral to this tale, but of course I don't need to state it. You knew it already, didn't you.




11 comments:

Deleilan said...

You're so fortunate to have such reliable and chivalrous knights to call to your rescue!

Did you manage to get any sleep after all this excitement?

BumbleVee said...

hahahha....oh, sorry...poor you! Well, who can remember anything when the stupid alarm is screaching in your ears? then our alarm company phones within a minute as it is hooked directly to their switchboard... and you can't hear what they are saying as they try to verify if it is a homeowner...yeh..right..like a thief would bother to answer the frikkin' phone! Geeez....

and, yes... the panel must also be designed by none other than.... a man! it's sort of like the remotes and all the other routing and re-routing of ridiculous electronics they absolutely must have just to turn on the tv. What's wrong with a simple on/off switch? I got so ticked at one I almost threw it out the window...the remote, that is, not the guy.... but, there is always that possibility.......

Susan said...

yikes !!

Not sure if you had begun visiting 29 Black Street when I had my own alarming tale, but alas! no knights were to be found in these parts. A morning wrestling with a spewing hot water radiator followed by an afternoon of "crackling" ceiling fixture (directly below leak from spewing radiator). Sigh. So glad for a happy (if sneezy) endings.

29blackstreet.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-so-rock.html

judy in ky said...

Those nefarious electronic things can be maddening, can't they? We have smoke alarms that have the habit of chirping in the middle of the night, when their batteries run down. We have to wake up, find the batteries, find a ladder, find a screwdriver, all while still half asleep. I learned from experience... hitting it with a hammer doesn't make it stop chirping. Neither does disconnecting all the wires hanging from it. It just keeps right on chirping!
Love your story, by the way. It reminds me a little of "The Night the Bed Fell" by James Thurber.

Shelagh said...

Never a dull moment is there! Thank goodness for your knights. Sneezes and all. I think we all have an alarm tale to tell. I know I do. But not now. Just glad it all worked out and things are back to normal. Or what passes for it:-) By the way, judy in ky's reference to Thurber reminds me of his wonderful My Life and Hard Times which, if you haven't read it, you must. It's great fun and includes The Night the Bed Fell on Father.

Rachel said...

Oh, Thurber - I haven't read him in years! I have two of his wonderful books* somewhere, and will look them out. I've also just placed an order for a 1948 1st edition copy of My Life and Hard Times - for the princely sum of £1.99! - so many thanks for the recommendations; I look forward to reading it.

*and no, I can't bear to leave a light socket without a bulb in it since learning many years ago about electricity leaking all over the house....

Big Shamu said...

Still alarms are good for warnings no matter how annoying they are. I'm glad everyone and everything is safe and sound.

laurie said...

oh my god. this would be frightening. glad it all worked out. what lovely neighbors!

and re thurber: i lived in the attic of the thurber house for three months. the very same attic where the bed fell on the grandfather!

laurie said...

ps and what gorgeous teacups in the post below. wow.

liZZie said...

phew...... I tend to weild a lump hammer in such situations, makes me feel empowered!

Marie said...

That's interesting (apart from stressful for you). I am used to alarms and more in South Africa, but do not encounter them here in New York, and somehow the UK didn't seem a canddate, either...

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