Cause for Alarm
Everything’s fine until it isn’t. One of the household’s alarms went off this morning. A single BEEP! We look at each other, What’s that? Ah, the smoke detector at the top of the basement stairs. The battery must be getting low. Down it came.
BEEP! Eh? All right, it’s not the one down the hall on the ceiling between the bedrooms either. Okay, it’s the newly installed hardwired combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector downstairs by the entry to the furnace room. Ann gets up on a stepstool and tries to read the circle of embossed type. ‘If LED light blinks after 1 second…’ She gives up. She twists the unit off its anchor. She nearly tumbles from her perch when the machine speaks to us in both official languages. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED. MOVE TO FRESH AIR. CALL 9-1-1.
Well, this is a little inconvenient as I haven’t yet showered or dressed. I know carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless. I can’t remember if the gas is lighter or heavier than air. What should we do? She asks me, ‘Are you feeling sleepy and light-headed?’ Yes, I just woke up. ‘What should we do?’
I cannot abide being spoken to by machines. The only recorded voices I want to hear are in our record collection. My first thought is to just rip the wires from the dangling device. My second thought is a little darker. If we were found dead with the detector disconnected, that would be cause for an embarrassing albeit posthumous Darwin Awards nomination. Equally humiliating would be summoning a fleet of emergency services to a false alarm. I realize we can defer a potential life and death decision by locking our pair of fraternal tabbies Scamp and Mungo in the basement and waiting to see what happens to the boys.
Ann points out the obvious flaw in my canary in a coal mine logic: ‘They’re cats. They’ll go to sleep anyway.’