9 Volts at Midnight

It is impossible to buy 9 volt batteries at 1:00am Christmas morning.  This is a fact that I was surprised by, but not saddened by.


Christmas Eve was spent eating, laughing and playing.  My in-laws hosted a family get-together that lasted until well beyond our regular bedtimes, but was still quite pleasant.  As 11:00 came and went my wife and I started chatting about getting the sleeping children packed away into the car and off to home.  As midnight rolled by we grew more serious about the conversation.  By 12:30 we were finally on our way home.  The roads were oddly busy, but there was a silence in the air that was serene and haunting all at once.  This is not typically a quiet town, but it turns out that if Santa is on his jolly way people stay off the road.

We get home, step out of the car and prep to take sleeping, heavy children to their beds.

As we stood in the garage we heard beep beep beep beep.

The smoke alarms were going off.

I said beep beep beep beep* and ran into the house to turn them off and make sure there was not actually a fire in the house.  Thankfully the house was smoke free.  The alarms were silenced and my wife and I resigned ourselves to making a Christmas morning battery run.  Typically when the batteries on these things die out we get a beep warning and then they stay silent for some time.

That was, of course, not in the cards for what was now 1:00am Christmas morning.

Ten minutes after silencing the alarms they sounded again.  Frantic button pushing ensued, followed by running to the boys’ rooms to make sure they were not afraid.  They were not even awake, so it mattered little.

“Ok then, let’s wait a few minutes to see if they go off again,” I said, knowing there was no chance of fixing the problem in the pitch black of night.

Ten minutes pass and nothing happens.  I start to think there’s hope.  Fifteen minutes pass and my optimism is destroyed like Alderaan. beep beep beep beep

“Fine! beep beep* I’ll try to find batteries.”

The thing about 9 volt batteries is they are useless.  We do not have a stash of extra 9 volt batteries, because where are they used?  I have a guitar pedal that uses a 9volt.  I haven’t touched that pedal in months.  That is the only thing in the house except the smoke alarms, which are also wired to a dedicated breaker, which uses the 9 volt batteries.

Driving slowly through grocery store parking lots at what was then 1:30am Christmas morning looks like a drug deal is going down.  That’s the only thing that makes sense at that hour.  Corner stores, grocery stores, big box stores; every where is closed.  My wife called her folks to see if they had batteries available.  They did not answer the phone because it was 1 o clock in the morning, when pillows and heads are best friends, eye lids are closed and ears can only hear the beep beep beep of a smoke alarm.

I had to abandon the search and drove home devising quiet ways to rip the alarms from the ceiling with a crow bar (I would soon discover that they twist off and the wiring disconnects).  When I arrived home, nearing 2am now, my wife had finished wrapping  helping Santa with gift wrapping and informed me the infernal machines had silenced.  When there is, at most, three hours of sleep in the works, I took the little miracle and went to sleep.

Christmas day we discovered the issue was not batteries at all.  Some weeks ago our floors were refinished.  “Refinished” is just a fancy term for sanded down and given a coat of shiny stuff.  The sawdust from the sanded floors goes everywhere, including the floor vents. The vents that pump hot air into the house.

Little side story here to better understand how this all relates.  My four year old son is getting taller and getting more and more interested in helping in adult tasks.  The one task that combines his new found height and an adult task is checking the thermostat.  Our thermostat is not particularly advanced, but does have a lighted screen that glows greenish when a button is pushed.  The four year old loves this and likes to hit buttons.  Usually he hits the temperature up or temperature down button, nothing of real concern.

Christmas Eve morning, just as we went to visit his grandparents for the day, he hit the button that turned the fan on.  All day.  Dust just flying out of the vents all willy nilly, spraying into the smoke alarms.  All. Day.  But at least the vents are clear now and I’m pretty sure we did not breathe in the bulk of the particulates.  Suffice to say, the battery changes did not have the lasting effect we desired and the alarms have been removed and replaced.

So 2015 ended loudly.  The first full day of 2016 has now come and gone and was much quieter.  Hopefully a portent of things ahead.  One thing is for sure though, smoke alarm batteries are going to be replaced twice a year from now one.  Calendar reminders are set and everything. Apparently daylight saving time changes are the common time of year to do this.  I did not know this little tidbit prior to our very loud morning.  Perhaps 2016 is the year of becoming an actual, responsible adult?  Probably not; there are new Star Wars micromachines in the house.


Thanks for reading! I hope your 2016 is starting off awesome too.




*I wasn’t saying beep beep beep.


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