Opinion: Chirping up a storm


The other morning, Mary Ellen shared with me at breakfast that she had not slept well the previous night.


Apparently, an annoying sound had continually awakened her.


I’m a heavy sleeper and am hard of hearing, which is why I am always shocked when Mary Ellen tells me we had a thunderstorm the night before. But as we poured our coffee, I heard it, too.


“That’s driving me crazy,” my wife said. “What is it?”

“It must be a bird.”


“A bird?” asked Mary Ellen, astonished by my answer. What bird chirps once every 30 seconds, eight hours in a row?”


Where was the sound coming from? It was now driving us both nuts. We walked around the house trying to zero in on the origin of the noise. We put our ear to the microwave, which usually dings when completing its task. We checked in the laundry room because the dryer buzzes when its cycle is finished. The fridge door beeps when I leave it open too long. Those were not the sounds we were investigating, but who knows — maybe after all these years, our appliances had finally changed their tune.


I listened closely to Alexa as I asked her several times if she was the one chirping. She basically shut down, refusing to respond.


“Let’s retrace this from the beginning,” Mary Ellen said. “When you first heard that chirp this morning, what was the first thing you thought?”

“That I forgot to fasten my seatbelt.”


I headed downstairs to see if my computer was having a hissy-fit. Nope. But on my way back upstairs I walked under the smoke detector.


There was the culprit! How could I not have realized this? Clearly, the battery needed replaced. I’ve always been good with batteries. I understand their plusses and minuses. But here was the problem: The detector was attached to a 10-foot ceiling. I couldn’t quite get to it with the portable stepladder. I told Mary Ellen she could reach it if she’d just get those sexy high heels out of storage.


We have a longer ladder in our garage. But there were several obstacles to using it.

1. The ladder was way too heavy and unwieldy for me to lug into the house.

2. I had never used this expandable ladder, so I had no clue how to extend it properly.

3. No matter: Mary Ellen won’t let me climb up on a ladder, anyway.

We called our son, Brett, who came over and replaced our battery with ease. Mission accomplished.

By the way, that full day of intermittent chirping in our house has not had any lasting negative effects on Mary Ellen and me. But our cat is now in therapy.


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