Things that go shriek in the night


‘This never happens when The Dude is here’

Everything was going so well.

Feast your eyes: Even the Taco Tuesday table setting was delicious

I was happily full of beans (both literally and figuratively) from a delightful Taco Tuesday. I’d watched my fill of fabulous first-round Wimbledon tennis, and had just tucked myself into bed with a copy of Fatal Vision. (The book about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder trial that I was re-reading after reading Janet Malcolm’s New Yorker essay The Journalist and The Murderer.’)

Some light summer reading about murders, trials and journalistic ethics

Anyway. It had been a marvelous day — and I was looking forward to an equally marvelous (and restful) night. As far as I could tell, there were no partying neighbors present, and even the helicopter and jet traffic had settled down.

I’d just plopped down my book and popped in my mouthguard (which I call my “biter,” much to my dentist’s chagrin), when I hear this terrible shrieking sound.

Was it coming from the neighbors? Fourth of July Weekend was coming up; maybe what I was hearing was a new form of pyrotechnical display.

I closed the bedroom slider. But that only made the noise louder — and, if possible — even more ear-piercingly shrill.

I got up to investigate. And I see the second-floor smoke alarm sort of blinking. It’s too high for me to reach without getting a chair to stand on. So I do. And I manage to remove the cover without bashing the whole mechanism to death with a broom.

That smart young lady in the middle thought my smoke-alarm-bashing episode was pretty darned funny. Dude Man (in background) did not

(Which is what I did the last time this happened. I couldn’t figure out how to reach the darned thing and/or get the cover off so I just got a broom and beat it into annihilation. Another time I had to deal with a shrieking carbon monoxide detector by taking it outside and burying it in a bush. Dude Man was absent those times, too. Why oh why do these things never happen when he is here?)

The smoke alarm that I did not bash into oblivion — this time

After teetering around on the chair and fishing the batteries out — I still hear shrieking. I go downstairs, following the shrieks to the guest room. Where I spy another blinking alarm — this one waaaay higher and completely unreachable from even my tallest chair.

I locate the ladders, and choose the taller of the two. Which, of course, I cannot figure out how to operate. I even Google the darned thing and watch a video. Okay, I think. I’ll just lean it against the wall. Which feels a tad, well, unsteady, but I do it anyway.

Mystery ladders too complicated to deal with as directed

By now my ears have been assaulted with shrieks so high-pitched they actually should be undetectable to the human ear — but are, unmercifully, not.

I grab the darned thing, open it and remove the battery. And, honest to the alarm gods I am not making this up — it keeps on shrieking.

I try calling Dude Man. But, since it is after midnight, he has his phone on “Do Not Disturb.” Don’t get me started on how much I would like to disturb him.

Another shot of the Cosimo Medici statue. (Which you can see, with Yours Truly, at the top of this post.) This once stood guard over a gate in Florence. Pretty effective alarm system — for intruders, if not fire

There is only one thing left to do. I call the alarm company.

Somewhat to my surprise, the owner of the company answers. “Jerry?” I ask. “Is that you?” I am surprised because, in addition to being the owner of the alarm company, Jerry is also the Mayor of East Hampton.

So here I have the Mayor of East Hampton on the phone trying to tell me how to deal with my shrieking alarm. He directs me to try a couple of things; things that do not work. I was just about to just yank the wires off the thing when he said, “Whatever you do, don’t touch the wires. You could get a nasty shock.”

Where the shrieking alarm used to be, scary dangling wires and all

“So, what should I do, Jerry?” First he suggests I “get an electrician,” and when I said I was sure no electrician would agree to show up now, after midnight, he suggests I “wrap it in a pillow or some blankets.”

Well. I held the phone right next to the alarm so he could get a full dose of shrieking. After a few seconds he says, “I’ll be right over.”

I texted the episode to The Dude the next day:

And yup. He did.

Amagansett, New York. July 2021

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “Things that go shriek in the night

  1. Deborah

    We had this exact same experience a couple of weeks ago in our Santa Fe condo, my daughter took the damned thing outside and hammered it into submission. We thought it was hard wired into the ceiling when we bought the place but apparently and thankfully was battery powered, if not we wouldn’t have been able to take it down and dismantle it into oblivion. Removing it made no difference, doing everything the directions said to do to stop the shrieking made no difference. It was taking a hammer to it that stopped it. We apologized to the neighbors the next day.

    • Hah! So sorry you had to live through this. But, selfishly, glad I’m not the only one! I honestly couldn’t believe it when it kept shrieking AFTER I took the battery out! Who knew?!?

I'd love to hear from you