A long time ago, in another house we lived in far, far away, I clipped a Family Circus cartoon from the newspaper and stuck it on the refrigerator. It had one of the boys, probably Billy, commenting that the smoke alarm in the house always went off only when Daddy cooked.
It was one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” things. That clipping disappeared in the next move, but it remains with us in spirit, since it continues to happen in fact.
For every time Mr. Lucky uses the broiler—which is several times a week—the smoke alarm goes off in a loud, piercing shriek.
Every. Single. Time.
Once he turns on that broiler, he also runs the fan over the stove full blast. I’ll open the sliding glass door leading to the patio. Mr. Lucky even waves the removable lid from Baby Bear’s toy box at the smoke alarm, which is on the ceiling in a hallway just off the kitchen. And still it goes off.
He always has to jab a broomstick at the smoke alarm to shut it up. Sometimes it’s like watching a kid trying to whack a piñata. It’ll break open and the battery will bungee out, dangling by its wires, yet the alarm continues to screech. This is usually followed by his standard rant about the hypersensitivity of the alarm (at least we know it works), that segues into a litany of everything he did to prevent it from going off, and then he wraps up with the same old empty threats (not that I can describe his threats any other way) to just remove the alarm altogether.
Meanwhile, the beagles go ballistic. Jasper flees outside, partly to escape the alarm and partly to avoid Mr. Lucky’s yelling, while Bart shakes as if he just swallowed a full bottle of Acme Earthquake Pills. Once dinner is served, he takes refuge beneath the dining room table, where he treats my feet to a massage with his vibrating torso.
The smoke alarm never goes off when I use the oven. Then again, I don’t use the broiler.
Yet I’ve noticed recently that even when I turn on the oven just to bake something, the dogs go into panic mode. Jasper dashes to the back door and does his gotta-go-now-before-I-explode dance, while a whimpering Bart trots around the house all atremble. They hate the sound of the fan over the stove. They know it’s a harbinger. They just haven’t figured out yet that they only need fear it when their master takes over the kitchen.
Oddly enough, Baby Bear isn’t bothered by it. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to notice when it goes off, possibly because it fits so smoothly with his regular program of routine chaos as to be nothing out of the ordinary to him.
Now that I think about it, I hardly blink myself when it goes off. I just wonder if it’s for the same reason, and if I should be worried about that.