So there I was, standing on top of a chair in my bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, with a screaming fire alarm in my face at eight in the morning. Or, how I learned the importance of fire safety.

I live on the second floor of a fairly old house in an apartment that I rent from my landlady, who also happens to be the occupant of the two floors below me. When I first moved in she pointed out that the smoke/carbon monoxide detector in my hallway not only beeps when it goes off, but also speaks in both English and French to let you know what is going on. Last night I also learned that it speaks to tell you when the battery is low by yelling “LOW BATTERY!” alternately in English and French every few hours. I am not kidding…

I first heard the thing go off last night but decided to put off the hassle of climbing on top of a chair and fiddling around with it until I got some more sleep. Plus (as I later learned I quite accurately assumed) I figured the thing would be beeping and yelling the whole time I was messing around with it, so to be considerate to my neighbors I refrained from starting this process at 2 am.

Finally, at eight in the morning I could take no more…plus I had to get up for work. I found my spare battery, climbed on top of a chair and started the fiddling. Here are a couple of things that proved to be somewhat challenging, especially in the ‘keeping it down’ department:

a. The detector has both a battery and a hook up to the electric system in the house. When the electric system cords are unplugged the detector goes BEEEEEEEEP!

b. The battery chamber has a special tab called a ‘battery detector’ which must be placed under the battery or the detector goes BEEEEEEEEEP!

c. Upon the correct insertion of the battery, the plugging in of the detector back into the electric system also corresponds with a shrill BEEEEEEEEEEP!

d. When screwing the detector back into the ceiling mount, accidentally pressing the centre button (which is so huge it is pretty much impossible to miss) precipitates the “test” function of the detector, during which it emits a series of VERY LOUD BEEPS as well as a full run down in English AND French of what one would hear had the alarm actually gone off for legitimate reasons.

Needless to say, at this point my poor cat is darting from room to room trying to make sense of this whole sorted affair and I have, at the very least, piqued my land lady’s curiosity about the alarming (pardon the pun) sounds emanating from my apartment. Which is why she knocks on my door and gets to witness the beauty of me in my bathrobe and slippers explaining to her that “yes, I know what I am doing”, “no, there is no actual fire in my apartment”, “yes, I do actually have a spare battery”, and “no, I don’t need help trying to figure this sucker out”.

The ordeal finally ends when the detector is securely fastened back on the ceiling, the chair is put away, and, as I walk away into the bathroom to get ready for the day, it lets out one final BEEEEEP, which I believe to be its way of saying ‘kudos’ to a worthy adversary. Kudos to you too, smoke/carbon monoxide detector. Kudos to you too.

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