Scott Free

Scott Peterson


Did you hear that? Like a pooch responding to a dog whistle, I perked up and went into high alert.

But there was deafening silence. After a few more moments, I relaxed into complacency.


What? There it was again, that maddening sound. Where is it coming from?

I asked my wife if she heard it, but she did not. So once again I thought I was hearing things.

Chirp! There, now I for sure heard it. Even Nancy heard it this time. Some device’s battery was dying, but which one?

Normally this irritating hunt happens at 11 p.m. right after we doze off. This was almost as bad. I was getting ready for work and rushed to get there on time, but I would not lose out to this dumb device.


Yes, in a world filled with smart devices, these alarms are as dumb as they come. The tech world can go gaga for devices we really don’t need like a smart thermostat (um, set the timer and forget it, and there’s no need to fiddle with it.), but what we really need is a smart device that will think for itself.

Instead of beeping, maybe it could say, “Smoke detector by the downstairs bedroom needs a battery.”


No, it just emits this short little tone that is going to drive me insane, and you have to wait a minute or two between each interval. The rest of the time you are wandering around the halls like you are hearing voices. (If only it were a smart voice!) By design, these tones are intended to carry a long way, so they can be heard and wake you if there were a fire in your sleep.

I was sure it was the upstairs bedroom, but then we heard it down the hall.


Was it the smoke detector downstairs? Was it the carbon monoxide detector? I stalked the hallways looking for the little red flashing light instead of green. There are so many things that beep, it could be almost anything. It could be the universal power supply for the router and landline. It could be a clock radio with a battery backup. It could be that old VCR in the basement. It could be a computer with some internal battery melting down.


No, that was not it! I think it was coming from the water heater. We had a sensor put in in a pan under the heater in case it leaks. I quickly changed the battery and yelled upstairs to my wife. “Never mind, I figured it out!” I shouted. “ It was the water heater sensor!”


Dang! How many things can we have that chirp when they need batteries! I suppose there are people who follow the national decree and change batteries during Daylight Saving Time. That has always had the same feeling as a Hallmark holiday for me. It’s Sweetest Day for the battery manufacturers. Nope, I am not going to give in. These batteries last years. I am not going to waste all my money and time needlessly replacing bat -–


So I identified that come from the lower level, but still was not sure just where. I looked for all of the usual suspects and could not find it anywhere. My wife now joined me in the search. Both of us were peering all around, hoping to get some sort of bearing to triangulate the signal.

Finally it dawned on me. Years ago I replaced one of the other smoke detectors with a newer model and hung the other one in an obscure corner of the basement near the dryer and the workbench. I told Nancy and she scoped it out.


Got you! Within a few moments, we had the new battery in place and the detector was back serving as the silent sentinel again. I went off to work and Nancy resumed her normal duties in retirement.

This is the kind of story we tell our grandchildren about. You know once we were all fascinated with the video game called pong, where you slide one rectangle up and down and so did your opponent in an attempt to bat a little white square back and forth.

Well, kids, in the 2020s, we played a game with our smoke detectors, where they made a sound and we had to find them. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Chirp! (No, that was not another sensor going off again. It was the sound of my censor bleeping out the swear word response I had to the last question.)

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