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Remember when I moved into my new place and the smoke detector in the unit below me kept beeping once a minute because its battery was low? You don’t? Well, here’s the link. And here’s a confession: that smoke detector has been beeping for the last three months.

Yes, I know, you all must think I am a crazy woman for letting it go on this long. The rest of you are wondering how low the battery really could be if it’s been beeping once a minute for three months (and probably longer since it was beeping before I moved in). In my defense, the beeping wasn’t that annoying. If I had the TV on or if I was listening to music, I couldn’t hear it. And even when I was lying in bed at night, it wasn’t that loud. I’ve actually gotten used to it. The only embarrassing thing has been when friends or family are over and I have to try to explain why I hadn’t stopped the beeping, which would require delving far too deep into my personality flaws and avoidance issues than I like to in mixed company.

I did make several attempts to stop the beeping. Due to the way my complex is set up, there is not just one maintenance man for all the apartments, so it was difficult to figure out who to call. I did try contacting the company I believe was responsible for the unit below me, twice, but never got a response from them. I briefly considered throwing a brick through the window of the back door and letting myself in, but talked myself out of it. Then this week, I got the contact info for someone else who might be able to get into the apartment and was planning on contact them when…the beeping stopped!

I literally just noticed it, right now at 2:00pm. It’s harder to notice the absence of something than it is to notice something, but my spidy-sense started to tingle, just like it does when I haven’t seen my cats for awhile. I looked at my watch, waited a long minute, and there was no BEEP! So, either the battery has finally, FINALLY, died as it has been threatening to do for the last quarter of the year, or someone finally entered the apartment and changed the damn battery. Which goes to show, if you ignore a problem long enough it will fix itself.

This incident says more about me than it does about the length of time it takes for a battery to finally DIE. I’ve noticed that if a problem requires me to deal with another individual, I will never solve said problem if I can find a way to work around it. At my old job, there were times when I’d have to contact IT or someone in another department to—God forbid—DO SOMETHING for me, and it stressed me out every time. If there was a way to get the work done without asking for help, I would find it, even if it took 10 times longer. I did get better at asking for help, if only because the mySQL database on my Macbook Pro got unbelievably frakked up, but it still makes me kind of queasy. I don’t like asking people to do things for me. I’d rather do them myself. This is why I will wander around the hardware store looking for wall hooks instead of simply asking an employee what aisle they are on. (The corollary being that as soon as you find an employee, you will be standing next to the object you were searching for and look like a moron for asking about something right in front of your face.)

So, that’s why I let the beeping go on for so long. It bothered me less to hear a beep every minute than it did for me to track down someone to change the battery. I know I should get better about asking for help, and in many ways I have. Sometimes you get lucky, though, and avoidance actually works!

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MB • October 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I hope the avoidance tactic works because there has been an alarm beeping in the apartment next door and it’s been driving me crazy. Who do you call when you don’t even know who the landlord is and none of the tenants in the building speak the same language? BEEP, BEEP ….


PastaQueen • October 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

@MB – I think the brick-through-the-window approach might work better in that case ;) Totally kidding, BTW, law enforcement officials.


Kendra • October 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I used to be really bad about asking for help but my best friend more or less cured me of that. She is the most forward person I’ve ever met. She got on the bus with me once and held out her ticket to the bus driver and said “I don’t know what to do with this.” It was so funny but it worked.


wilma • October 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

…maybe it would be a good idea to put a new battery in the smoke detector, regardless? asides from the safety benefits, there could be an insurance issue there. but it’s hard when you don’t know who to contact, etc etc…


Lanie • October 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Paxil works for me.


Laura I. (GG) • October 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I can so relate–used to be just like that. Not anymore though–age helps (it’s possible to get old enough you don’t give a rat’s ass anymore . . . . )


Caroline Calcote • October 5, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Well, regardless how it happened, I’m glad you aren’t being subjected to that anymore! BEEP!


Carbzilla • October 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

You are so hilarious.

I immediately had flashbacks to one of the most terrible weeks of my life (back when I was in my 20’s and thought this was the height of terrible – hah!). The garbage truck had dropped one of those greeting cards that plays music and it slipped into a space under my window between my condo and another wall. Of course it was wedged in OPEN so for a week it played this high-pitched electronic classical music snippet Nee nee Nee nee Nee nee Nee nee neeeeh, buh da buh bee…..you know the one. That battery could not die fast enough.

I don’t know how you lasted 3 months.


SeeDogThink • October 6, 2010 at 12:45 am

a) I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months!
b) I so understand. I too have made my life unnecessarily difficult by not asking for help. But I just can’t. Maybe it’s not feeling entitled? Even if I have a friend who is an expert at whatever I need help with, I will rather HIRE someone and pay them to do it, and then I didn’t really ask for help, then it was a business relationship…
makes no sense.


CK • October 6, 2010 at 1:15 am

PQ, I feels your fail! I endured a chirping smoke alarm for weeks until my landlords came by and we figured out what the noise was. If you haven’t replaced the battery, DO IT. It’s cwazy to have a disabled smoke alarm. And if you can’t figure out how to do it, call your local fire department (TOTALLY NOT KIDDING), and ask if someone can cruise by, preferably a hottie firefighter, to do this for you. They will oblige you for free!

MB, if you have the address for your beeping neighbor, you can look it up on your local county assessor’s property database to find out who the landlord is, including their address. From there, you can possibly find their phone number online.


Cheryl • October 6, 2010 at 7:37 am

Putting on my insurance hat here: most people get credit on their insurance for this like smoke detectors and central station monitored burglar and fire alarm systems. So if you have the, great. If you have them and they don’t work and something happens, it could void your insurance coverage.

So let’s say your downstairs neighbor’s place has a fire. And it damages your apartment and stuff therein. Their coverage would be voided because their controls weren’t in place (the smoke detector battery went dead). They get no payout which means they have no coverage to reimburse you in that event, either.

Besides, what if it wasn’t the battery detector? What if it was the carbon monoxide detector? Or the lock alarm on the cage for their boa constrictor?

Just sayin’


PastaQueen • October 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

@CK – Woah, the county assessor’s property database rocks! Thanks for letting me know about that. It doesn’t have phone numbers, but it does have the owners’ names and addresses.


mom taxi julie • October 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I can’t even stand squeaks and rattles in my car. Drives me insane until I find where it’s coming from and find someway to make it stop. I probably would have broke in to fix it haha


Natalie • October 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Last night in a restaurant they brought me the wrong wine (I think it was my fault) and they SHOWED me the bottle before pouring it into my glass (I was just buying one glassful) and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted – it was even red and I wanted white! – yet I was too chicken to say so and I just accepted it. It wasn’t even like I would be asking them to throw away a glass of wine, it was still in the bottle! And they were showing me to check!!! And I still said ok. I think I need to work on my assertiveness.


MsGigglepuss • October 6, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Oh my, you have brought me memories of my parents old rental house. They had a smoke detector with the battery ready to die. They didn’t have a ladder tall enough to reach it…the landlord said he was going to take care of it…it never got changed. My parents didn’t even notice the darn chirping at all! Thank goodness the situation is finally gone for you. I know I couldn’t live with it.

I am horrible at being assertive. If I have to ask for help, it probably will never get done. My stomach churns and I hate looking like I’m not smart or capable. I think it’s in my genes!


Deanna - The Unnatural Mother • October 8, 2010 at 7:03 am

Too Much! Take baby steps to break this pattern, I’ve learned that I can’t possibly handle everything in my life, and I do need help sometimes.


Julie • October 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I have just read your book and I love it!! You are hillarious and inspiring!


Erik Goens • March 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Set it on fire.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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