Friday, June 17, 2005

The "fun" of a travelling spouse

Those of you who have spouses who travel. Ya know how almost every time something happens around the house that you have to stop and think about?? A maintainance problem, a neighborhood problem, whatever... something that would be easier to deal with if you weren't the only adult around?

And sometimes you choose to let the problem slide... but sometime you can't. I've learned to cope with these situations so well that now I'm a pretty good electrician and plumber with social skills who can sew! Just don't let me near a can of housepaint.

I had one of those nights last night.

First some background: my dog Katy is very calm and almost nothing upsets her, but odd situations in the house do make her a little nervous at times. Her way of coping is to lie in her cage and hope it goes away.

Jake OTOH cannot abide loud noises. He hates the noise of truck's airbrakes on the freeway a mile away; he hates the squeak of opening a couple drawers upstairs. He really cannot cope with smoke detectors beeping. His reaction is to run to the door by the garage. We call it his hidey-hole.

MORE BACKGROUND: We have a house that is built with lots of high ceilings and changing ceiling levels. Some call it California dramatic. I call it a pain in the ass for decorating/painting. Whatever.

Those changing levels, high ceiling mean one other thing: we have WAY TOO MANY SMOKE DETECTORS. Really. There is one right outside our master bedroom and TWO inside the room. The two inside are because we have a "normal" ceiling height at the doorway, but a very high ceiling in most of the room. And the stupid building code requires that both ceiling surfaces be covered with smoke detectors.

And last night the one way up started to beep.

Jake spent every 10 minutes running to hide. Usually, that's kind of humorous...(I'm easily amused). Katy went into her cage, but the noise wouldn't stop. She became stressed enough that her heart was racing, her muscles were tense and quivering and she couldn't stop panting.

I couldn't let it beep until Steve comes home on Saturday. It wasn't bothering me much (though I would have had to sleep in another room), but the dogs were beyond stressed.


Ten pm, I'm walking out into the sideyard where the extension ladder is hung. This the door I let the dogs out from. What do you thing the odds are that I wouldn't find some dogpoop on my shoes? Doesn't matter. I did.

I lifted the 11 foot ladder off it's hooks, jockeyed to balance it, and started carrying it through the house. I want to tell you... my house is tall, but it is not wide (or is that long??) It ain't easy to move an 11 foot ladder through the house!!

And curved stairways?? WHO THOUGHT THAT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA?? I'd often like to shoot them. Yes, they look dramatic.. but I could have a coat closet next to the stairway if I weren't dealing a curve. Now it's just wasted space. Anyway...

I had to lean the ladder against the stairway, go up to the top and lift the ladder up and over the railing. No fun. LOTS of arm strength. NOTE TO SELF: START WORKING ON THAT ARM STRENGTH THINGY. The good thing? Not a scratch on the railing or the walls.

Slid the ladder through the door, and set it up. Unextended it just reached the "plant shelf" below this friggin' beeping smoke detector. Hmm... is this safe enough? but if I extend it will I be able to crawl off??

Pause for a possible chance of planning ahead.

I went back downstairs, unlocked the front door and grabbed the cellphone. This way, if I fell (but didn't break my neck) I could fall 911 for help and they could actually get in. If I did break my neck? Katy has gotten good as sliding the glass door open to get into the dogfood. She's be resourceful enough for a while.

I decided to leave the ladder the way it was. I crawled up onto the shelf and spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to undo the friggin smoke detector from it's wiring. If I had had a hammer with me, I'd have smashed it.

NOTE TO SAFETY DESIGNERS: Smoke detectors need a uniform design. And they need to be battery-replaceable with one hand. That way the replacer-person can hold on for dear life to something.

Got it open, changed the battery, and then could not get it plugged back in. U'm 12 feet or so above floor level, kneeling on some 2x4s covered with plywood and drywall (and wondering how much weight it can carry) on a "shelf" that is about 18" wide. It's all in shadow because nobody tried to actually light high ceilinged rooms and this connector needs me to be in my bifocal range to line things up right. How??
(our detectors are hard wired together... I'm guessing in case we had an alarm system? My alarm system sleeps on the bed with me, barks, sheds and lives. and hates the sound of beeping alarms.)

I decided to "screw it!" and threw the smoke detector down to the floor. Guess I reached my patience level. Never knew it ran so shallow. We now have a charmingly unattractive partial appliance on the ceiling... but heck, it's my bedroom nobody sees it.

The dogs followed me downstairs, where Katy laid at my feet for the next hour. Her panting slowed, her body relaxed, she became her old self. Jake moved from his hidey-hole position of safety back into the family room with us. We ate icecream at 11:30 pm to celebrate.

The ladder is still in the bedroom. I think getting it back down the stairs will need to be a 2 person job. It surely isn't an emergency.

So now I can "expert at working at heights" to my list...


Gerrie said...

This is hysterical!! I always left some remnants of what I had to deal with so that I could get more sympathy so I think the ladder in the bedroom is a good thing!! My Steve was in Japan when we had th 1989 earthquake. Do you think I cleaned panything before he came back? No, I wanted him to have a shared experience of a house in total disarray!!

Deb R said...

Oh man, what a night! As someone else with a frequently traveling spouse, (and multiple dogs, and cathedral ceilings!) you have my complete sympathies!

Anonymous said...


Rosie said...

You're very brave to attempt the height. My solution would be to THROW SOMETHING AT IT! But I think the worse possible thing to find on a cathedral ceiling is a huntsman spider, and the weirdest characteristic of a hunstman is that they move sideways, never in a forward direction!

Sonji Hunt said...

Deb, you must work on that throwing arm. In your situation, I'd do the same thing...except for the ladder. I probably would have stacked a stool, chair and table together and then poked at the thing with a broom. I'd have been too lazy to get the ladder with all that other good climbing equipment nearby.
I hope the hounds have recovered. You must take them to that lovely dog park.

ginger said...

This happens at our house with frustrating frequency AND I am sure that not one of the accessible detectors has ever gone off ...we had a beagle (till last december when she succumbed to a tumor) and she would go nuts barking at the thing like she would somehow get it to come down and fight fairly...have you ever been around the wonderful bark of a beagle?? I have had teenagers around but that is changing here real soon so I should practice with the ladder!!!

Nikki said...

My spouse doesn't even travel for work, but I swear to God, EVERY FREAKING TIME a smoke alarm battery has gone out in the entire time we've lived together, he's been out of town AND it's the middle of the night. It's definitely a conspiracy!