NINE VOLT BATTERIES
What is funny about my breast cancer experience is that I completely forget that I have had cancer twice in three years. It was caught so early that it almost seems insignificant compared to the cancers that aren’t. I find myself almost minimizing its place in my life. “We caught it early,” is a mixed bag for someone like me. Someone like me who is a planner, an idea maker, a pull up your bootstraps and move the fuck on kind of gal who likes to check things off her list.
Go to the the grocery store –check
Make deposits at the bank-check
Pick up wine for the July 4th celebration- check
Weed garden- check
Drive to Warwick to get a breast fill –check
Breast cancer maintenance has become part of my routine just like going for a bikini wax or a morning workout and it has become such a part of my life that I almost have forgotten its significance. So when July 1st rolled around today and I did all of the Bristol, RI, July 4th kind of stuff to get ready for the big day, I didn’t think about my upper body at all.
I decorated the front porch, I helped my partner, Michael put together my new hammock, I went to my favorite meat market, Persimmon Provision to pick up the beef for burgers among other preparatory things. Life actually seemed pretty normal so much so that Michael and I decided to sit on the front porch and enjoy a bottle of white wine I had bought yesterday at Gasbarros on Federal Hill. We got comfortable in the rockers amongst the thick foggy air on a beautiful but cool summer eve, even danced to a nice song on the front porch. All of a sudden, the fire alarms in my house started to beep so I ran upstairs to see what was going on. Now this seems pretty idiotic since if there was in fact a fire, I would be running into danger, but I just couldn’t imagine there would be a fire. It was super windy, all of my windows were open and the neighbors next door were smoking cigarettes blowing the smoke from the intense wind right into my house.
As I tried to turn them off and the fire alarms were screaming “Fire Fire Fire,” I realized it was Saturday, THE SATURDAY before Bristol, RI’s July 4th, I had just finished off a nice bottle of white wine, it was after five in the evening and my dilemma was, “What the fuck am I going to do?” I began trying to reset the alarms, taking the NINE VOLT BATTERIES out, disconnecting them to make their sound stop. I obviously knew this was not a responsible decision, but I did not know what to do. Once I took about four of them down, I called my trusted neighbor who is somehow affiliated with the fire department and he told me I should call the fire department, aka the entire swat team of the illustrious volunteer fire department of our blessed town.
My problem was that I wouldn’t drive because I had been drinking wine, there didn’t seem to be any places I could buy batteries at this time that were in walking distance and this situation needed to be corrected pronto. (totally forgot about Pic n Pay, the handy but exorbitantly expensive convenience store directly around the corner. In hindsight I would have paid twenty five dollars a battery to avoid what happened next; stay tuned).
I considered the possibilities of not putting the fire alarms back up and my son having to sleep on the third floor with no alarms. This didn’t seem like an intelligent option and I seriously could see the newsflash on Channel 10 unfold before my eyes and the bad judgment of a drunken mother, (well not drunk, but definitely highly buzzed-sounds like an alcoholic rationalization, I know) on July 4th weekend. Bad. So I mustered up my courage and let my ego leave me and I called 911. I knew I needed the batteries, but with no apparent solution to solve this problem (why the fuck did I not think of Pic n PAY?) it seemed that the fire department visit was the best solution.
After all why would I not want confirmation that these alarms going off were in fact just the batteries and not some other electrical problem in the old walls of an 1865 historic home. It felt silly to call the fire department. It felt like I was overreacting. Kind of like the “we caught it early,” feelings, I felt like I needed to minimize the reality because it just felt dramatic. This seems so absurd, but I was raised by people like my grandmother (you know HOT FUDGE SAUCE, grandmother,) who at a restaurant started to choke on some piece of food and didn’t want us to call the rescue because it felt over reactive- the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose.
The firemen came in all of their gear. In walked a very grown up friend of my son’s who used to play baseball with him. (You know you are getting old when your son’s peers start becoming firemen.) He was a kind soul and gingerly told me that the fire alarms could not be tested if they were not attached. The fire chief assistant arrived (much to the young man’s relief, I’d imagine not quite sure what to do with “Mrs. White” who was clearly stressed). The fire chief assistant let me know how foolish it was to disconnect the fire alarms. He let me know that it was impossible to assess the situation without the fire alarms in place. No shit, if you had 8 fire alarms beeping in your home with no sign of fire on the start of July 4th weekend after drinking a bottle of wine with your man would you be leaving them beeping while you tried to figure out the problem? It wasn’t like I was going to go out on the town leaving the unattended fire alarms to their own free will, leaving my house and more importantly my son in harms way.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware they were doing the job they were supposed to do. I am super thankful for a really terrific volunteer fire department. They probably see these calls more than any other calls, but I felt like a little girl playing house after the fire chief assistant told me five times that I should never have disconnected them. They had no batteries to offer, no solution other than to tell me there was no fire. I told them that I wanted to buy batteries but had no solution, because I readily admitted I had been drinking wine and certainly wasn’t going to drive. Personally I thought I was being pretty responsible by my admission and yet the very kind and very low keyed fire chief assistant decided to, I am sure unintentionally, scold me for taking down the alarms. Was there some rule book that came with first time home ownership letting me know that I should never do this? No. For Christ sake, I just learned how to use a drill today! I didn’t know I needed to change batteries in a fire alarm every time change cycle, I thought the alarms beeped to tell you when the battery needed changing! Yes, Fire Chief assistant, I feel completely irresponsible and thank you for reinforcing it.
Instead of trying to teach me this obvious basic home owning 101 in a helpful way, I felt more like a “hysterical” ( I can’t stand this word so I use it only to demonstrate why it is a terrible word) female and then on top of it was left with a pile of fire alarms needing batteries that I couldn’t drive to buy. I know they were doing their job, but if these are common situations, maybe the town could send out a information flier to homeowners reminding them of common fire safety prevention tips or hand one to me as they leave. There are certain things about single woman home owning that are just not intuitive to me. I was married for twenty years to a very handy and home- responsible man who took care of all of these things and I happily let him. (That’s why they call me Wonder Woman, I guess) There are certain things that I don’t even know to think about. How foolish. I take full responsibility for not reading the first time living alone homeowners manual. I won’t let this happen again. The only fun part of the evening besides the obvious glory of no fire was that my neighbor’s great grandson who is about two got a full one on one fire truck experience. I insisted on taking a photo, after all there had to be some memory of this first day of July.
Thank goodness for my neighbor who offered to drive to CVS to buy them for me, (twenty-five dollars for six instead of one). It was a total shit show; I felt silly calling just like it feels silly when someone tells me how great I look after THREE MONTHS because “it” was caught early but because I never had chemo, I never really looked not good. I learned a lot in this crazy evening. Only call the fire department if there is an actual fire. And just like getting regular mammograms before finding a lump, change your batteries every 6 months in your fire alarms whether they beep at you or not. For me it will be July 4th and Christmas because who could forget this date after this crazy first day of July.