You know the old expression, “Everything happens for a reason”? It’s an old expression because it’s true.

This evening, I was getting supper ready. The thick strip loins were marinating, I’d sautéed some mushrooms and garlic to go with them. Hub had cut up a ripe papaya and mixed it with fresh blueberries drizzled with honey and lime for dessert. I was running up and downstairs finishing off some ironing (summer cottons and linen are lovely and cool to wear, but look like crap when they’re wrinkled).

Where there's smoke...

Where there’s smoke…

The one thing I had to finish was the grilled asparagus. The spears were too skinny to put on the grill unless I wanted to dirty the grilling basket, which I did not, so I sloshed some olive oil in a pan, shook the spears around to coat them and turned on the burner. The barbecue was already hot enough to sear the meat, so my objective was to throw on the steaks then run inside to shake up the pan and turn it to low heat. In the meantime, Hub came out and sat down to chat. I joined him, waiting to flip the steaks.

“Let’s have some wine.”


As soon as he opened the sliding glass door to the kitchen, we heard the screech of the smoke alarm.  Shit. I’d gotten distracted and forgotten the pan of asparagus on the stove. I waved my way through the billowing smoke, grabbed the pan, turned off the burner and ran outside. The damned smoke alarm wouldn’t go off when Hub entered the code into the alarm panel. No phone back from the alarm monitor, either. We whipped open all the doors – who cars if all that expensive air-conditioned air leaked out? He’s frantically dialing the customer service number and gets put on hold. WTF? I’m standing in the hallway whipping a place-mat around to clear the smoke when finally he gets  through. No, they did not receive an alarm notice hence the lack of a call-back. WTF?

Downstairs I race to push the test button on the alarm and have my ears blasted off. Thirty seconds later – it seemed like forever – the alarm in the workroom starts to wail. OK. Shut off the panel. Try the one upstairs. Deafening but no main alarm triggered. Tried the main floor unit again – same thing. This is not good.

Turns out the two units on the upper floors, while top-of-the-line new, had not been hard-wired into the main panel. There’s a number where they are supposed to be, but the units are wireless. I know the one on the main floor used to work, because 10 years ago when I was trying to dry a bamboo steamer on the stove and instead, set it on fire, the alarm worked quick, quick and I was almost paralyzed into inaction by the racket.  This time, not so much. The upshot of all of this is that the alarm company is sending out a technician on Wednesday to install two conventional hard-wired units.

As I write this, I’m still shaking.  We’re both heavy sleepers and, no doubt, I’d eventually hear the smoke alarm outside our bedroom. The thing is, unless the carbon monoxide alarms started to howl too, it might be too late. Certainly the alarm monitors wouldn’t know anything was amiss unless the fire started in the basement. So yes, perhaps I do get forgetful and set off the smoke alarm every few years, but zowee, there’s a reason each time. As scary as the ‘what-ifs’ are, we’ve had a good outcome.