Column: The sound of unpreparedness

Jun. 15, 2014 @ 01:15 AM

With summer thunderstorms rumbling through town nearly every afternoon or evening, it is important to have on hand several items in the house. Things like flashlights, candles and matches are all important, but I learned there is one more: nine-volt batteries.

On Wednesday, a large thunderstorm hit, bowling over trees and knocking out power lines. About 10:15 p.m., I looked out my glass sliding door to see trees bowing their leafy crowns to the earth and an array of debris whizzing by. Every few seconds, lightning flashed in the night sky. Thunder shook the apartment.

At 10:30 p.m., the lights flickered, then went out. I gave up hope of reading my new library book before bed, quieted the cat and got into bed. And then, it began.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

A few weeks after moving into my new home in Morganton, the smoke detector started beeping, which indicates that their batteries are dead and need to be replaced. I yanked out the battery, and it stopped beeping because the electricity served as a back-up power source. I never thought to replace the battery. So when the power went out, the smoke detector started up again.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Every 90 seconds, that little contraption in the ceiling chirped loud enough to wake the dead. In fact, it was so loud that I knew I wasn’t the only one experiencing the problem. I could hear my neighbor’s smoke detector beeping as well through the wall. As the hours crept by, I considered ripping it from the wall and worrying about the broken ceiling later.

At 5 a.m., I lost my mind. I got dressed, grabbed a pillow, threw a blanket over my shoulder and, abandoning my pets to the mind-scrambling madness of the intermittent beep, went to my car and curled up in the back seat. I’ve never been so thankful for the back seat of a car.

By the time I crawled back into my apartment hours later, the power had returned. And thank goodness! I did not want to explain to my editor and publisher why there was a chinchilla running around the newspaper office because there was no air-conditioning at my place (chinchillas can’t get above 72 degrees or they’ll die of heat stroke).

On my commute to work, I saw that many of my neighbors dealt with a lot worse. Trees had fallen left and right, across yards and on top of houses. I learned from my neighbor that nearby two children were trapped in the bedroom when a tree fell on their house. I am thankful all I had was the beeping of the smoke detector.