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My 'Murphy's Law' Moment as a Blind Person

It was the weekend before Easter — a quiet Saturday afternoon. I was planning to read a novel, and perhaps take a nap. Suddenly I heard “chirp” for a second or two. It was startling and mechanical. It was near the bedroom. It was an alarm needing batteries. I knew this by about the third chirp. But my household helper Terry had switched the smoke alarm battery at the fall time change. Therefore, I reasoned, it must be the newer carbon monoxide detector.

I called Terry to check. Of course, the Murphy’s Law chirping stopped by the time she got to my house. So we couldn’t be sure of the culprit. And of course Terry relied on my explanation and my memory. There was no way to change the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector, and it wasn’t flashing. Maybe it wasn’t the problem after all. But what could it possibly be?

Two years ago, our apartment building went through the renovation from hell — new furnaces, new venting, new sections of wall. As part of the code inspection, they had to put a second smoke alarm in each bedroom. This new detector was about eight feet from the existing alarm. And did I remember that? Did Terry remember that? No.

The mystery smoke detector didn’t chirp again until 2:30 a.m. Saturday night. Murphy woke me from a sound sleep; it made me really mad. I charged out to the kitchen, retrieved my two-step ladder and went looking for the sound.

Imagine my surprise to find that second detector right above my bedroom door. I didn’t know how to remove it, so it chirped just enough to keep me awake for several hours. I tried making verbal deals with it. I swore at it and threatened hammers. But every time I almost got to sleep, it chided me. And on a weekend, maintenance would not consider this an emergency.

Sometimes blindness really is a pain in the ass. Or maybe it’s faulty memory. Or maybe I couldn’t envision the silliness of two smoke alarms several feet from each other. On Palm Sunday afternoon, Terry showed up armed with a 9-volt battery and fixed the “chirp” in about two minutes. It was chirping most of the time by then.

Monday morning, I told the maintenance man what happened and he laughed. “I’m sure I told you about it,” he said. And Terry is really wondering about her eyes. Like she said, “You couldn’t see the other alarm, but what’s my excuse? You asked me to change the one in the hall and I never saw the bedroom one when it’s right there.”

I probably won’t ever forget about that smoke alarm again. When the time changes next and we install new batteries, I’ll have Terry show me how to do it. I wonder what Murphy will try next.

Getty image by Stockseller UKR.