There is a freight train shrieking in my bedroom. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense when I am thrust awake by the most horrible noise at an ungodly hour.
QWERNK… QWERNK… QWERNK… QWERNK…QWERNK…QWERNK…QWERNK
Saturday morning starts with a raucous bang–or rather–a very loud “QWERNK” kind of sound.
A sound drilling through my brain at about 110 decibels.
At 2:37 a.m.
Sidebar: I googled ‘Train Whistle’ to come up with the ear-splitting approximation. After checking the security alarm website, I discover I’m only off by 10 decibels.
Assuming we are under attack, my heart goes into overdrive flooding my body with adrenalin. I stumble out of bed, fumble for my glasses, and nearly trip in my haste to shut off the cacophony blaring from the wall-mounted security panel.
[Does anyone feel the urge to ask Vanna if we can buy a vowel, or is it just me?]
I can’t remember the four digits that will shut off the alarm. I turn, stagger back to the bedside table, and grab my phone for the APP that has a quicker draw-down menu. It’s hard to punch in numbers when you are trying to cover both ears with your hands–but I manage.
The sound echoes in my head as I calm my child who was also blasted awake by the noise. I go to the living room, my hands are shaking but I see no one in a balaclava trying to break into our suburban mini dream house.
I double-check all the windows. Yep, closed and locked. No signs of any intruder. Must have been a glitch or the batteries, maybe?
I trek back to my bedroom, the kid is already unconscious. I reset the alarm and go to sleep thinking: “It must have been a fluke.”
If I dream, it isn’t for very long.
5:18 A.M. the alarm goes off AGAIN!
I jerk awake–swearing vociferously. I stumble through the same routine as before: I turn off the hideous throbbing claxon, cancel the police call, calm the child–who is justifiably vexed, as am I–and check the windows.
Nothing. No sign of any reason why I’m awake once again on the day I can usually count on sleeping in at least a little bit.
I am punch-drunk tired by this point. (Meaning, if you had brought me a drunk at that hour, I would have punched him!) I go back to bed–but do not turn the alarm back on.
(As a favor to you all, I will preface the rest of this post by saying, nothing irredeemably bad happens to my child. I on the other hand, barely survive the day.)
Despite the two previous wake-up calls, my kid gets up at his usual early o’clock. I beg him to make my tea (which just means putting water in the kettle and starting it) he ignores me in favor of covering the kitchen floor with his favorite crayon-based hieroglyphics and eating whatever he can forage for–as all teenagers abandoned by their parents do.
I pour enough caffeinated water into my system that my brain gets a sluggish jumpstart and I manage a few disaster-free hours.
The Saturday aide arrives after lunch so I can run to the store. I’m pretty out of it, but the weather keeps threatening another Polar Vortex. I definitely do not want to run out of food only to be trapped in a house with a starving teenage boy. (Can you say “Donner, party of one?”)
I forget to eat lunch, so I end up buying every snack the store carries:
I get home, send a text to ask the aide to have my son come help bring in the groceries. And, if I had managed a full night of sleep, I probably would have had the presence of mind to prevent what happened next.
My son pulls a bag from the trunk by one handle and this is how my favorite late night snack ends up like this:
The aide stays over a few extra minutes so I can clean up the mess. She wishes me luck before she leaves. It turns out, I could really use some.
The later it gets, the more tired I feel. I’m supposed to be writing for a contest that has a deadline of midnight tonight–but things keep happening.
I call the Vivint alarm company to ask for a review of my system to see what might be causing the problem.
I get Jorge in Equador and his voice is warm and calming–much like the climate where he lives. I’m suffering brain fog and it takes me a while to explain what happened last night. We chat for a bit and review possible causes.
“Were there any high winds last night?” he asks.
“I don’t think so…” I say, but admit, “honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to the wind outside when the alarms were going off.”
He runs a check on the system and suggests a reboot might fix any technical glitches. He mentions that I could replace the battery to see if that was the problem.
Before he goes, I ask him what the weather is like there.
“Oh, it’s about 22 degrees–near the equator the weather is almost always the same year-round.” He says, matter-of-factly, as if he didn’t just brag about his country’s global positioning.
“Oh, it’s about 22 degrees here too.” I say, laughing. “But I think YOUR 22 degrees must be in centigrade, not Fahrenheit.“
“Yes, Celsius. That’s right.“
I say goodbye and go to enact the plan. It’s when I go to get the batteries that the next thing happens.
In my bedroom, I pull on the dresser drawer where the spare batteries are stored, but it won’t open–at least, not all the way. I could see in about a quarter-inch, but could not tell what was blocking the dumb thing from opening. I tried sliding a frosting spatula into the crack and wiggling around to release whatever was jamming the damned drawer. I sneak small items out through the crack. No go.
I finally gave up finessing the junk. Instead, I just yank the drawer hard enough, repeatedly, until the impediment finally gives. I’m honestly surprised that the facing drawer plank didn’t just pop off in my hand first.
I change the batteries in the suspect window and I put the alarms back on. And go about my day.
Just as I’m getting dinner started, the alarm goes off a fourth time. Even though I’m awake, it is still a jarring, chaotic sound. Plus it upsets the kid. I hurriedly shut it off and call the Vivint people again.
I get someone else near the equator–and this conversation is a lot less chatty.
“I just want to be able to sleep at night. HELP!“
This time, the assistant suggests an ‘update of the software’ and he recommends we identify which of the windows is setting the alarm off. I dutifully open and shut two windows. But it’s when I get to the window closest to the front door that I notice it was slightly off from fully shut.
OH! This is probably what is making the connection fidgety.
I say nothing to the tech about this. I’ve been less than pleasant complaining about the problem. (In my defense, I’m a bear when I wake up on a good day. Take away my sleep and I become a Godzilla-sized hemorrhoid of a human being.) I thank him, hang-up, reset the alarm and finish cooking dinner. I hear not a peep out of that alarm again, but this does not mean my fun-fun day is over.
After our meal, I’m ready to collapse on the couch, forget about the bloody writing contest, and binge watch this week’s Chinese historical soap opera:
Before collapsing into a slothful tv coma, I decide to clean up the kitchen. Butter chicken is a delicious dinner–but it leaves a huge mess. I do dishes, clean surfaces, put stuffs away.
I’m almost done when I spot the ginger left out on the counter. I pull open the fridge door to put it away. The yeast jar flies out and drops to the floor, the lid pops off and a fucktillion yeast beads scatter everywhere. They provide no traction whatsoever. I’m lucky I don’t slip and break something.
Sidebar: One of the reasons I find cleaning to be pointless is the above example. I was trying to do a good, responsible thing and clean my kitchen so I could relax. See how well that turned out?
I send the kid to get the vacuum. We clean up the frictionless hazard and call it a day.
The couch beckons to me. The remote is right there–in the open–I wouldn’t have to hunt for it…
But my friend invited me to do this contest with her…and I had a really great idea last minute. So that’s how I ended up writing my NYC Midnight submission in under four hours–and submitting it at 11:58 pm–unedited–with two minutes to spare. If I win any prize–it will likely be for hubris.
So, to whoever reads “The Note Among the Pickles” I hope you can see your way past the lack of ‘drama’ in my story. My life is already chock full and I just needed a laugh at the end of the day.