I destroyed the smoke detector in my apartment last night. (I’m hoping that neither my landlord nor the fire marshal reads this blog.) The damn thing finally pushed me over the edge. Every time I use the oven it goes off. Not that I use the oven often, but I had a store bought pizza that had to be cooked. I waited for the oven to preheat and then slid the pizza in. Within minutes the first ear shattering wail assaulted me. The cat slammed back his ears and ran in panic to hide under the bed.
Having been through this before, I knew what to do. I grabbed a dining chair, positioned it in the hall under the detector, climbed up and pushed the button which temporarily silences it. But the deafening shriek continued. This time it would not be subdued. I felt blind rage sweep through me. This plastic contraption which was supposed to save my life in the event of a real fire came to represent every frustration in my life. It’s voice was that of the army of institutional bureaucrats who obstruct the business of life, unhelpful help-line technicians, inflexible bill collectors, illogical gadgets that don’t work – in short, everything in life that pisses me off. To add insult to injury, standing on top of the chair so close to the thing, my eardrums were really starting to hurt.
So I hit it. I slammed it as hard as I could with the palm of my hand. Pain shot through my hand and wrist. I screamed at the detector but it screamed back at me more loudly. I scrambled down from the chair, holding my throbbing hand, and ran to the closet where I keep my tool kit. This was war. I was not going to be bested by a piece of plastic with a printed circuit board and a tiny but incredibly powerful loudspeaker. With my good hand, I rummaged through the tools until I found it: The Avenger, better known to most folks as a hammer.
It was surprisingly well constructed. It took repeated blows to dislodge it from the bracket on the ceiling. As pieces of it ricocheted off the walls and fell to the floor it continued to wail. Finally the little speaker itself was knocked loose. Even in its disembodied state as it drifted in slow motion down to the floor it managed to screech a few last insults at me.
But it was finally silent. A sublime peace fell upon my apartment. I glanced up at the bare wires that dangled from a hole in the ceiling and felt satisfied. As I picked up the remnants of the smoke detector and tossed them in the trash, I smelled something pungent. Something was burning. I ran into the kitchen and jerked open the oven door. Smoke wafted out and filled the room with a blue haze. My pizza was burned to a crisp.
There’s a moral to this story but I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps I should have known better than to buy pizza in the supermarket. Perhaps I should know by now that the kitchen is not a safe place for people like me who can’t cook. Perhaps I should carry a blunt object with me at all times. What I do know is that I won’t be bothered by that infernal noise maker any more, that my hand is still throbbing and that I won’t be getting all of my security deposit back when I leave.
It’s not easy being a bitter old queen.