Monday, September 5, 2011

The Lady with the Crazed Appliances

I never knew that I’d be known as “the lady with the crazed appliances.” It’s not something that I aspired to in college or as a child. But given that people google “crazed appliances” and find me or friends say, “Um, any new appliance mishaps?”, I guess it’s time to embrace the title.

I’m tempted to blame our house. After all, it was built in 1940. But most of the appliances are new. Besides there were several incidents before we moved. The one that comes to mind is the stove that exploded while I was cooking. Yes, the burner exploded and sent molten metal through the air. Thankfully, I like to wear heavy aprons and it didn’t hit any bare skin. It was truly amazing—the pot that was on the burner was coated with metal afterwards and had to be thrown out. And, of course, we had to buy a new stove.

But that’s not the incident I meant to tell you about. (That was just backstory.) My latest appliance fiasco was the burglar alarm.

A burglar alarm has no interest to me. We have Jezebel—and even though she’s a big softie, Labs are territorial and very protective. So she gets properly snarly when a stranger comes near the house. (Our new mailman is afraid of her—she’d probably lick him to death.) Jez is our burglar alarm.

But the people who owned the house before us prefered electronic surveillance. So they put in an ADT system. We didn’t renew the contract. Fine. Of course, they never shut down the system completely, so the system pinged whenever a door or window opened. No big deal. Until last Thursday.

Thursday night the system went haywire. You haven’t experienced confusion until a burglar alarm that you know nothing about goes off at 1 am. It’s especially difficult to shut it off when you can’t find your glasses. I know because I was randomly punching buttons on the wall monitor. Eventually, I pushed the right button and the system turned off. If I had been wise, I would have found my glasses and put them on my nightstand. I was not wise. When the alarm went off at 2am, I had the same fiasco all over again. The same thing happened at 3am.

Next day, I was determined. The ADT alarm was going to die. I called ADT. I had my I-lived-in-New-England-I-can-be-very-tough attitude on because I had heard horror stories about how difficult ADT can be to work with—if you aren’t paying them, they don’t care. But, providentially, the woman at the service center was very sweet—I explained the multiple alarms during the wee hours of the morning. She explained that the battery backup was dying. All we had to do was “pop the battery.” Simple, right? Not.

The system controller was in the bathroom linen closet, and someone had built shelves over it. Can you say “stupid”? I removed the shelves. Then lady told me to take the key on top of the box and unlock it. My first throught was “Really? You think there’s going to be a key there.” There was no key. I informed her. A long pause ensued, followed by “Oh. Well, it’ll be okay. You’ll just need to unplug the system from the electrical feed.” That sounded to me like “Cut the red wire.” It wasn’t that easy. She told me the electrical connection should be within 15 feet of the box. It wasn’t. So I had to trace all the lines leaving the box—there are a lot of lines given that every door and window is wired. And they all ran through the basement—a 70+ year old basement is an accumulation of abandoned wiring, unused ducting, and spider webs. Not to mention that I haven’t reorganized it since the last time it flooded (when we had tornadoes and lost electricity for 5 days), so the basement is a rat’s maze of bins and boxes stacked higgledy-piggledy.

About this time, the ADT woman said, “I can’t stay on the phone with you anymore—I have to talk to paying customers.” Which I understood, but now she’d abandoned me to the basement. I asked for Cal’s help, but in a couple of minutes he pronounced the situation as “trying to find a needle in a haystack.” He wanted to take a crowbar to the bathroom monitor box. I wasn’t quite that desperate.

About fifteen minutes later, I found the electrical feed—on the other side of the basement—nowhere near the 15 feet. I unscrewed the plug from the electrical system. Of course, the inevitable happened. The burglar alarm went off. Finally, the battery backup died. Yay! Now we sleep blissfully. The only one who misses the burglar alarm is Jezebel—it was her early warning system. When it chimed, she’d jump up out of a deep sleep and charge the offending door or window. Now she can only sleep for 20 out every 24 hours. Poor baby.

Instead of photos of me climbing around the scary basement, I thought I’d include one of the tea party I gave last Friday. It was a lot of fun. 


  1. Looking very good in your white apron Connie. I hope that ADT system will rest in peace for the rest of your stay there. Happy Labor Day.

  2. I remember watching an "Everyone Loves Raymond" episode where his brother sold them an alarm system and it kept going off and no one knew how to turn it off. Finally the old dad/grandpa destroyed it with a hammer or something. Your story seems quite similar. Hopefully it's something you can laugh at now. Think of all the great stories you've gotten to write because of your house/appliance issues :)

  3. Connie, I still believe it is your special aura that stimulates all electrical gadgets. Are you properly grounded? We had one of those unused alarm episodes, and--finally--I tried the penciled number that Jim had left on the panel. That was it. I was expecting black and whites and who knows what else, but the noise, though defining, was confined to our house. Not really much comfort, however.

  4. Ooh, tea party. I want to go to one of those!

    Our alarm system went haywire recently. Turned out we had water coming from our roof and setting off the fire alarm. Ugh.

  5. What a nightmare! I would have ripped the thing out of the wall and smashed it with a hammer. Cute pic, BTW!