Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I had to get up early this morning, so I needed to get my sleep. About two hours after I finally dropped off, I was awakened by a noise in my apartment. A chirp.

A cricket? The old house I live in is on a hill. My front door is on the ground floor, but my bedroom, in the back, is on the second floor. (And this is not a two-story apartment. It’s all on one level, but the ground drops away from that level in the back.)

A cricket I could ignore, but it seemed unlikely that a cricket could’ve made it up to a second-floor bedroom.

I listened. Another chirrup. It was too regular, too automated. No cricket: a machine.

Wearily, I forced myself out of bed. I have two smoke detectors, one carbon monoxide detector, and innumerable other gizmos. I had even gotten a new cell phone that very day. It was charging a room away: could it be chirping that it was fully recharged?

I checked: no noise from the new cell. So it was probably a detector, its batteries low, emitting a warning. I make it a point to change the detector batteries every spring, but perhaps I forgot one.

I thought I heard the beep from the bedroom smoke detector. So I opened it and took out the battery, and got back into bed.


I got out of bed again, restored the battery to the smoke detector, and went to the next closest unit – the carbon monoxide detector. I took it off the wall and held it in my hands until I heard it chirp. This was it: the malefactor, the culprit, the thief of sleep!

I removed the batteries. One of the AA batteries had leaked; I had to clean the corrosion off the contacts. I checked that the replacement batteries were fully charged, installed them, and put the detector back on the wall.

Unfortunately, as much as I needed sleep, I couldn’t seem to doze off. I ended up reading for two hours until I could get back to sleep.

And the last thing I saw as I fell asleep was the carbon monoxide detector, happily sampling my air for signs of poison.

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