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Shane Brown

Shane Brown

Sometimes it's good there are only 24 hours in a day.

Recently, I had a day that may have set a record in stress. I've been telling you guys about it for three weeks now. It started with me waking up in a pointlessly foul mood and my last nerve already frayed before breakfast. This led to a lunch hour where I tried an Impossible Whopper. True to form, it was Impossible to fix my bad mood.

When I got home from work, I was met by an adorable soggy stray cat in need of rescue, which led to an evening vet visit, some emergency supplies, flea baths aplenty and a friend coming through with a second litterbox at the 11th hour. But as it turned out, I could have really used help at the 12th hour, too.

The night was starting to look up, or at least starting to look DONE. My new houseguest was safely quarantined. Litterboxes and food bowls were deployed. It was 11:45 p.m. There was nothing to do but call it a day and quite litter-ally put this bad mood to bed. Since my new feline friend was making herself at home in the bedroom, I decided to set up shop on my comfy living room couch. I put on some relaxing music — "Victorialand" by the Cocteau Twins, my go-to relaxation mood-fixer — dimmed the lights and lay down for peace, quiet and...

BEEP!

Except it wasn't a beep. The word "beep" has kind of a pleasant connotation. There was nothing pleasant about the shrill, high-pitched nightmare noise that suddenly pierced my entire house, shot straight into my ear canals and traveled directly to the part of my brain that controls wincing. If I had to attempt to make a word of it, I'd probably go with:

SKREEEE! Then silence.

I shot straight up and assessed the situation. Was I having an aneurysm? No. Did I imagine it? No. Was the house on fire? Maybe.

The advent of smoke detectors is a wonderful thing. I'm certain they've saved many, many lives. I'm happy they're in my house. And I know how important it is to change their batteries. I mostly know this because when said batteries get low, they start chirping. Or at least they SHOULD chirp. Actually, they should make no noise whatsoever. They should just send an email. "Dear Shane, my batteries are low. Love, your smoke detector." That would suffice just fine. If it HAS to make a noise, give it a different noise. A change-your-batteries noise. A pleasant noise. A beep, if you will.

Instead, when my smoke detectors need new batteries, they make the exact same noise as when they detect smoke — only shorter. So it's kind of like being alerted to a dozen tiny fires spaced about five minutes apart. This would still be acceptable, were it not for one crucial thing:

Whoever installed the smoke detectors in my house is a sadist.

When possible, smoke detectors should be placed on the ceilings. Groovy. Except my house has a lofted bedroom and vaulted ceilings. Changing them generally requires multiple people, aerial acrobatics and a two-story ladder. I own two ladders: a tiny one and a fancy telescoping beast that was a gift from my dad. It weighs 11 tons and takes a master's degree in physics to assemble. The last time I had to haul it out, it took my best friend and me about an hour to change one battery.

This time, though, it was the smoke detector in the lofted bedroom that was chirping. Well, it's kinda in the bedroom. It's more like right on the edge of the loft, at the perfect position where even a fall off the tiny ladder could drop you two stories. With a brave sigh, I brought the tiny one-up the stairs and tried to climb it.

Remember earlier this summer, though, when I hurt my foot? Okay, let's just be honest: I'm pretty sure I broke my foot. But I was also a stubborn idiot and didn't go to the doctor and instead spent the majority of the summer limping around like a fool. Fool or no, my foot feels fine now, or at least it DID until I stepped on that ladder and felt stress on the exact spot of the injury. Between my fear of heights and my fear of my foot collapsing into bone shards, I was NOT doing this on my own.

Instead, I decided to sleep in the basement. I hauled blankets downstairs, tried to get comfy, and SKREEEEE! Glad to know that my smoke detector is SO powerful, even the nearly soundproof walls of my house are no match for its shrill wails. At least I know I will never ever sleep through a fire. I also might never sleep again.

I tried to process my options: One, I could stay here and go insane. Two, I could spend money I don't have on a hotel room in the pitch middle of the night. Three, I could get on Facebook and post about how horrible my life is. I picked up the phone when it suddenly hit me — Jeff Konrad.

Jeff is one of the best people I know. He's an area musician, studio engineer and tech geek. We're not BFF's or anything, but at least once or twice a year, I can count on him showing up at my door, sometimes unannounced, with a pizza from Alfano's and a dire need to geek out to new wave synth jams while discussing everything from music theory to world religion. He's a weird, fantastic human being. A weird, fantastic human being who happens to live about five blocks away from me and who often shuns sleep in favor of recording music in the wee hours.

I sent a desperate text: "Hey man, you up late by chance?" "Yessir," came the reply seconds later. "Can I cash in EVERY friend favor I've ever earned and get you to come over right now for a quick assist?" Five minutes later, he was at my door, the battery in hand. Ten minutes later, this lifelong audiophile was never happier to hear the sound of silence.

The next day I was a sleep-deprived zombie, but a happy zombie. My bad mood was gone (yay!) My smoke detectors were no longer torturing me (thanks, Jeff!) And, strangest of all, I think I have a new cat (skreee! The good kind of skreee!)

Here's to better days.

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