Monday, 10 May 2010

Our Neighbour’s Fire Alarm

A couple of months ago, the incessant beeping began. It was originating from our next door neighbour’s home, and day and night, the noise never ceased, never slowed, never quieted down. We were so worried that we even called Aunt Kimchi to make a house call next door. After she visited our neighbour’s shack, the beeping stopped.

Recently, the beeping started up again. All we can hear is “beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep” coming from next door. Aunt Kimchi thought nothing of the beeping when I called her and told me that the noise would pass. Obviously she wasn’t being exposed to the high-pitched sound piercing into the night.

Ken and I decided to take matters into our own hands.

(Our neighbour’s home is much like the traditional homes that Korea had in the 1950’s. With now crumbling concrete walls, a stick roof, and a ratty, wooden, gate-like door, we wonder how she makes it through each winter living inside her paper-thin walls.)

As we gently knocked on her door, we could literally see into her kitchen through the gaping cracks between the wooden planks of her door. Some of them had been filled in with old newspapers and pieces of cardboard. We could see a shadow lurking just beyond the crevices of her door.

She opened her door, and the cause of the repetitive noise was apparent. Her fire alarm was painfully beeping, not because of a fire, but simply because of the steam and smoke that was hovering over her dinner, bubbling on the stovetop. It was clear that she didn’t make an effort to turn the alarm off – it had been going for days on end, and someone had decided to install it a foot beyond her grasp. So, she let it run…while she cooked, slept, and went out.

I explained our unexpected presence, and she distressfully communicated that she couldn’t reach the fire detector, let alone figure out how to reset it.

As Ken slowly pulled the alarm off from the ceiling, he opened it up, and pulled out the battery. After several tries, we both realized that the reset button wasn’t working on the alarm and the only way to terminate the sound was to detach the battery from the unit every time it went off.

She refused to have the alarm installed in her bedroom, and opted to have it moved to her bathroom (an outdoor port-a-potty). I explained that the purpose of the fire alarm was to detect smoke, and that there would be no use for it by placing it in an open bathroom. She shrugged, and suggested other walls outside on which to attach it. After a few suggestions thrown around, she finally agreed on the kitchen (despite it being awfully drafty).

Ken installed the alarm on the wall (within her reach), and left the battery to dangle out of the bottom of the device for easy disconnection. He then explained to her how to disconnect and reconnect the battery (a difficult task for a woman of her age). It took a several tries and some assistance, but she finally got it.


(10 minutes later…)

Ken and I were heading out to the convenience store and had just reached the end of our driveway, when the utterly pestering beeping sounded again. We stood silently; waiting patiently for her to follow the steps we had taught her… After a few minutes, we gave up and decided to once again pay her a visit. We found her in the kitchen, thoroughly frustrated with the entire situation. She had decided to leave the alarm going again, and urged us to disconnect the battery and leave it alone. She didn’t want to deal with it anymore. Defeated, Ken and I suggested that she have a new one installed (hopefully with a working reset button), and prayed that she would take our advice.

There have been no new incidences…

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. At least you guys tried to teach her. She sounds quite special...