Thy enemy, thyself

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

There’s a smoke detector in my dishwasher.

In the cool-tempered, rational, non-middle-of-a-sleepless-night light of day, I can concede that that’s not the best place for it. Kind of like a 4-year-old can agree, after enduring forceps in their nasal cavity during a trip to the emergency room, that, no, pennies don’t belong up their nose. But at the time, when the pennies are there and impulse control is not, their nose seemed like a perfectly acceptable place to stuff them.

For me, the time was about 3 a.m. Saturday. I was in bed, ordering myself to fall asleep (a tactic which never works, but one to which I seem faithfully committed) despite the shrill, metronomic beeping of my bedroom smoke detector.

I am not an idiot (despite evidence, in this case, to the contrary). I knew why the thing was beeping — the battery was out of juice. And I knew how to make it stop beeping — replace the battery.

I knew at the first, ear-drum-piercing chirp I should have gotten up and fixed it, even though that would have meant navigating in the dark through the gauntlet of a basket of laundry I haven’t folded and the sneakers I didn’t bother to put by the door, going to the garage, muscling the giant, broken dresser I haven’t gotten around to fixing out of the way of the catch-all bins I’ve been meaning to organize, to rifle through for a D battery which isn’t there because I haven’t yet fulfilled that section of my months-old shopping list.

I’m not lazy, exactly (the preceding run-on sentence to the contrary). I just tend to defer action until absolutely necessary. In my head, this tendency seems perfectly reasonable. Efficient, even. Why do something until it absolutely needs to be done, when there are plenty of other things needing more-immediate attention?

It’s not that I don’t do anything. I don’t sit around, frittering away all the time I could be spending shopping for and replacing batteries by watching YouTube videos. (OK, yes, some time — have you seen “Guy on a Buffalo?” — but not all.) But the problem with this prioritization structure is I’m constantly in emergency mode, stomping out embers and hotspots before they whoosh into conflagrations requiring the assistance of guys with axes wearing neon jumping out of helicopters. Whereas if I’d just avoided putting flammable items near each other in the first place, or doused them when they first started to smoke, they would never get that bad.

Enter, the dishwasher.

As I lay in bed, I tried to distract myself from the beeping by playing a round of “If I were a real adult.” It’s a brain exercise whereby I challenge myself to image what life would be like if I behaved in an organized, forward-thinking, properly prioritized fashion. It goes a little something like this:

If I were a real adult, I would …

… have bought batteries and changed this thing before it kept me up all night.

… get up right this second and deal with this situation before I lose any more sleep.

… have put away my shoes and laundry instead of creating my own version of a spring-training obstacle course across my bedroom floor.

… know how to prepare an artichoke.

… be able to wear a scarf without looking like I’m garroting myself.

… understand what, exactly, FICA is.

… be able to keep baking powder and baking soda straight.

… perform regular maintenance on my car beyond just changing out the smelly tree.

Eventually the inevitable happened. I got so frustrated with the situation — especially my role in exacerbating the predicament — that I flew impulsively into action. I tripped headlong over the BEEPing laundry basket on my way to find a BEEP chair to climb on in order to rip that piece of BEEP smoke detector out of the BEEP ceiling and shove it where the BEEPing sun don’t shine.

Let me point out, lest this next part makes me sound a little crazy, that the sun does not, in fact, shine in the dishwasher.

I removed the spent battery and was almost back in bed when I was loudly reminded that this was one of those wired-in smoke detectors, meant to outsmart those of us prone to battery-yanking temper tantrums. Next came a wiring-yanking temper tantrum, followed by a stomping tour of the house looking for as soundproof a landing spot as I could find.

I ended up in the kitchen. I don’t know which speaks worse of my capacity for logic at the time, that I first considered the refrigerator and decided that, no, putting the smoke detector in there would be ridiculous. Or that I then decided the dishwasher, however, would be a perfectly reasonable receptacle.

So I opened the dishwasher, pinballed the thing off the racks and slammed the door.

Full disclosure: My finger hovered over the On button. It may or may not have pushed.

As I stomped back to bed I wondered, as I often do in the aftermath of one of my self-created flare-ups, what life would be like if I stopped being my own worst enemy — tripping myself on stumbling blocks I left in my own way, shoveling molehills into mountains then getting squashed by the avalanche that comes from the once-little situations I’ve snowballed into big ones.

I’m not so naive to think that if I didn’t create problems for myself my life would be devoid of them. But maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t be so BEEPing frustrating to resolve.

Jenny Neyman is editor of the Redoubt Reporter.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Thy enemy, thyself

  1. Thank you for sharing this story, and doing it so hilariously. I love this.

  2. Philip IV

    Update to your shopping list: Add 9V battery, skip the D cells.
    FYI: Artichokes are great simply steamed in a pot for 20 min, then dipped in butter or your favorite salad dressing.

  3. les

    Stop worrying about artichokes. They’re only good for conveying butter and mayonnaise from the jar to your mouth.

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