Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our House Has a Mind of Its Own and It Lost Its Mind

This is such an epic tale that it’s a struggle to actually write it, given my tendency to be a Small Happenings Blogger and not a Big Events Blogger (examples: have not yet written either child’s birth story, tale of medical woes from the last year, or various other drama, yet you know all about How Much I Love That Plush Octopus. Yeah.)

However, I’ve been quite inspired by Stimey, with her play by play in a battle-to-the-almost-death with questionable employees of a big box store, and various vomiteous (is that a word?) adventures. If she and others like her weren’t willing to sit down and share, where would I get my daily bloggy entertainment?

So here I am with a glass of orange juice, bottle of Vitamin C, and bag of Doritos (my long-standing remedy for squelching a cold,) and I’m determined to write this one out. It’s good for a laugh, even if it does involve a trip to the ER.

A bit of background: Two years ago, we moved into a house in which the original owners had spent twenty-five years lovingly customizing every aspect. Some things are brilliant, like the kitchen design and the garden of rosebushes. Some things are charming, but not useful to us, like the coat closet turned wine cellar. Others are baffling, like the infinitely flexible, programmable lighting system, which is tied into an internal telephone rig with mysterious patch panel and a whole-house security network that we hadn’t really paid attention to, since we almost always have someone at home. This last part? Remember that, it’s important.

A couple nights ago, SwingDaddy and I were working late on our computers when Q-ster stumbled into the office, laboring to breathe. One o’clock in the morning, the witching hour for croup. SwingDaddy immediately got the hot water running in the shower to generate steam, and I held the little dude as he struggled to breathe. It’d been thirteen months since the last bout with croup and we hoped he’d outgrown it already. Not so lucky. He obediently swallowed a dose of orapred, but couldn’t keep it down, which meant it was time for a run to the emergency room.

SwingDaddy kept him company while I threw together a hospital bag – spare clothes for both of them, roll of paper towels, a couple of plastic bags, blankie, and a book for distraction. As I ran back up the stairs, I could see the steam spilling out from the bathroom as they emerged, and I guess that’s what triggered the house alarm.

Hitherto unknown to us, there are sirens and speakers embedded in the ceiling of our house in multiple locations, both upstairs and downstairs. “Woooot! Woooot! Woooot! Fire. Smoke detected. Leave immediately. Wooooot! Wooooot! Wooooot! Fire. Smoke detected. Leave immediately.” A stern, disembodied voice alternated with the siren. I think the house decided that all that steam must be the signs of a fire and we needed to be warned of the danger.

Of course, the baby woke up. He is a child with serious vocal power, so if the house weren’t noisy enough, I now had an organic sound generator tucked on one hip. I held Buster with one arm while I slipped Q-ster’s shoes on his feet with the free hand. He was sitting patiently on a bench, concentrating on breathing while SwingDaddy flipped through one of a dozen security system binders left by the Original Owners.

I told him, “Just go! I’ll figure it out!”

He hoisted the little dude up and they headed for the hospital. I closed the door behind them, trying to decide where I should set Buster while I sorted through the user manuals. Then the house said, “Front door open.” The alarms shut down.

I think that the house figured either we made it outside, or help had entered, so it didn’t need to keep broadcasting the alert. Whew. I sighed in relief, and went to work getting Buster back to sleep, then cleaning up the bathroom from the evening’s events. Some draining, some scrubbing, tossing things into the laundry, until everything was put away.

I was dozing at 3am, when SwingDaddy and Q-ster returned. In the interim, the house, awoken to vigilance by the supposed fire situation, had moved into “nighttime security mode,” and the door opening triggered another house-wide alarm. “Woooot! Woooot! Woooot! Intruder alert. Front door open. Wooooot! Wooooot! Wooooot! Intruder alert. Front door open.”

Fortunately, Q-ster was perky and cheerful, a little hopped up from the dex’ injection in the ER, so he wasn’t at all put out by the excitement.

The other child, not so much. Buster woke up screaming. I tried to find a quiet place to soothe him, which was impossible, given the thoroughness of the Original Owners in their security installation. I settled for a nice dark corner, wrapped my body around the micro dude and rocked him until he calmed down.

SwingDaddy managed to convince the house that we were ok, and the alarms shut down. We put both boys to bed (AGAIN), and he went back to the master control panel to duke it out with the system, because we needed to be able to leave the house in the morning (Garage door open!) without the whole saga beginning again.

In our bedroom, there’s another access panel, so I could hear the house talking and talking as he cycled through the settings. Finally, it said, “Controls disabled.”

Silence. What a night.

So it appears that our house is sentient and a little confused, but distinctly benevolent. It’s looking out for us. We just need to do some coaching on the decibel level.

Any thieves or robbers out there – be warned, this house is connected to the world in ways you can’t imagine. And ways we’re not quite sure about either, but we’re working on it.

Photos (unrelated to topic) by YF.


mayberry said...

YIKES. What a night! I'm glad it all turned out OK in the end. (This reminds me of my parents' old house in CA, which had a very complicated sprinkler system. The only thing my dad knew how to do was hit the big button marked "RAIN" if he wanted to turn the system off.)

YF said...

Wow, what a night for sure. Did you both have to go to work in the morning? I am so tired just thinking of it. Hope that was your houses' last croup and alarm. Adorable pics too.

Anonymous said...

We have an alarm in our house, also installed by the original owners. We leave it disabled, but whenever the power goes out (which doesn't happen often, less than once a year on average) it automatically powers back on. Then we forget about it until someone tries to leave the house and it starts screeching at us. We've tried just disconnecting it, but it's impossible.

That sounds like a horribly frustrating experience in particular. I'm glad everyone's OK and that the system eventually backed down.

darvyJ said...

I don't know how you find the time to write but I am glad that you do. Too funny. I'm glad Qster is OK and that your house is no longer yelling at you.

Waltzing with Widgets said...

Holy. Cow. I had dreams of making such a security system when I was about 10 years old. Very interesting to read how it works in practice.

You have not, perchance, happened across Mark Twain's short story "The McWilliamses And The Burglar Alarm" ?

Stimey said...

First, are you calling me verbose? Okay, that's valid.

Your alarm system sounds scarier than any possible emergency that might befall you. It's like you have an extra, incredibly obnoxious, very loud troll in your walls. But from the outside, this story is hysterical.

I'm glad everything turned out okay.

K goose blog said...

OMG! I can't believe it...

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