Monday, February 13, 2012

Problem-solving, alone and in the middle of nowhere

My problem originated last Sunday morning. The battery in the smoke detector near my office started chirping its "I'm-dead-change-me" alarm. No big deal. I hauled out my five-foot ladder and changed it. But then I got to thinking it was only a matter of time before the battery in the smoke detector in the living room would start chirping. That would be a big deal because it is 12 feet off the ground and I would have no way to change it.

So I pondered my dilemma all week, thinking there had to be a way to get up there without buying a taller ladder. I happened to be pondering while eating breakfast one morning and my solution stared right back at me - the sturdy dining room table. I could put the ladder on top of it to reach the ceiling! Whew. Now I could stop worrying. Whenever that alarm started chirping, I'd be ready.

But then I got to thinking it would be stupid to wait for it to start chirping to replace the battery, since that would probably happen in the middle of the night, and who wants to be executing this well-developed-yet-somewhat-dubious maneuver half asleep in her pajamas?

So Sunday afternoon, I took action. Step one: move the sturdy-but-insanely-heavy dining room table under the smoke detector.

I put a rug under one end, picked up the other end, and sort of lifted/pushed/slid it across the floor.


The table and the ladder were about the same width, so I put a wider piece of 1" particle board atop the table 
so the ladder wouldn't slip off the side. I was confident that my makeshift scaffolding would hold, 
but I put the telephone nearby just in case. Looking at this picture, I now realize that "nearby" 
should actually have been the floor. Oh, well. I can't think of everything.


The OSHA inspectors double-checked my worksite.



Smooch: Are you sure you know what you're doing?



Snapper: On the surface, this looks like it will work...



...but who will feed me if it doesn't?

Me: Thanks for your vote of confidence and concern for my welfare, Snapper.



After triple-checking that a fresh battery was in my pocket, up the ladder I went. 
Yes, I took my camera. How often do I get to see my house from this angle?
And if my plan did go south, I could document it.
(Admit it – that would be an interesting series of pictures.)



Me: Hey, Snapper! Smooch! Look up! 

They ignored me. 


Me: Daffodil, it's toasty warm up here. Why don't you join me?

She ignored me, too.


There are several lessons learned from this problem-solving adventure:
1. Measure twice, climb once.
2. Don't wait for the alarm to sound before planning an escape.
3. Dining room tables – they're not just for eating.
4. Don't build a house with an unreachable ceiling.
5. Don't expect your pets to call 911 if you're in trouble.
6. Living alone in the middle of nowhere is always an adventure. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


45 comments:

  1. The placement of that smoke alarm seems like a mean joke. Glad everything held together--I was a little worried for you.

    Love your blog!

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  2. You always come up with the best solutions! I'm impressed and also took heed of your advice. ... Although I do have another half who scales walls to perform such feats, because we also built a house with high ceilings cuz we thought it looked 'cool', there are times I am here alone, so I keep things in the back of my head. Thanks Carson!

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  3. If there was a national award for resourcefulness and self-reliance, I would nominate you! And smart, too!

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  4. Was waiting for the final shot to be of you with a bandage around your head or a broken hip. LOL Sheesh, woman. Our ceilings are the same way.... We have one or two smoke alarms that I could never ever reach. Hubby uses a VERY tall ladder, one that is so heavy I could not even lift it to get it into the house to use it. As I age I think I have a greater appreciation for lower ceilings. LOL

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  5. I am not sure I would have had the nerve to climb up there! And having a high ceiling is still cool despite the occasional inconvenience......It was fun seeing little snippets of the inside of your home :-)

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  6. This seems like a perfectly logical solution to a really difficult problem ... and a wonderful opportunity to get a birds-eye view of your living room. Daffodil looks awfully comfy by the stove.

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  7. Carson, you made my hands sweat just reading this post and looking at those photos! Please, next time, don't put the ladder on your table! One time hubby decided to change the light on our fan/light combo in the kitchen and he fell off the ladder and broke his arm in two places. Ugh. Never again!

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  8. I'm sure you can devise some sort of pole like the snake catcher to reach up there and twist the smoke alarm off. Safer and perhaps quicker than the homemade albeit ingenious scaffolding.
    Glad you didn't fall whew!
    Best always, Sandra

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  9. Super Genius! My LR is 10 ft tall and I recently painted...I have a 6 foot ladder, and it was tall enough but another foot or 2 would have been better!! MY sister is painting now and she bought a 4 foot ladder...OUCH!
    Ladders are so expensive so this was a grand idea you had!!

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  10. At first glance the ladder on the table doesn't seem like such a good idea. Seems like a lot of things could have gone wrong in a Keystone Cop sort of way. I'm glad that it proved sturdy and safe enough for the battery change and you're still in one piece. Those critters of yours are really not much help are they, guess they were mesmerized by watching a genius at work!

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  11. OMG! Buy an extending ladder! It will save you possible serious injury and they are handy for getting on your roof and other stuff. My bends into a number of formations for varous uses but I usually only use the step ladder and 12 ft. extension. I admire your inventiveness but this is damn foolish, Linda.

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  12. Dave Gibbons2/13/12, 6:47 AM

    I'm glad you got up and down safely. Also, your method was a lot less messy than stacking bales of hay that high in your living room. Then, you would need a leaf blower to clean out your living room. By-the-way, a leaf blower cleans out a car interior pretty nicely. Not that I (ahem) speak from experience or anything.

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  13. Truly impressive! I'm quite sure there is probably a YouTube video of me during my last ladder adventure as I live next door to an office building. (I know...it's the pits) I had to 'prop' up one leg of the ladder with a leftover piece of fence post...one leg of the ladder was on the edge of the concrete pad that supports the air conditioner...and I had one foot on the second rung from the top, and the other foot on the window ledge. Stupid, yes. But it was one of those days. Teetering, I was able to complete the task...but that I survived my stupidity, is testament to the existence of angels.

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  14. I am faced with the exact same problem only my dining room table isn't up to the job. The bulbs in my ceiling fixture have been burned out for at least 6 months. I haven't come up with a solution and may actually have to break down and buy a bigger step ladder. Or find a better table.

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  15. Ta-da! Good planning - good execution!

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  16. Love that table and love seeing Smooch's face, lol. She looked worried about you :)

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  17. Estella from Co.2/13/12, 7:55 AM

    Thank goodness you're all safe and sound and on ground level now. I wouldn't tell the outdoor kids what you did...they may want to be there next time...just incase. I would imagine George and Alan would put their two cents worth in. I can just hear them now..."Come on Mom put the board on our back and we'll stand real still." Have a good day and hugs to the kids

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  18. Wow now that's what I call an idea. I used to have those when I was younger and more pliable. Not so much nowadays.
    But I now know what you can plan for in your retirement. The kids went to the circus this weekend and with your talent with animals and jerry rigging....seems like a perfect match up. I kept hearing the intro music for the circus as I read this potential train wreck but I can't look away post. And a huge Ta Dah at the end. Congrats on your daring feat of smoke detector wrangling. Excellent, especially that it is over. Oma Linda

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  19. Um, no freakin' way. I have an overwhelming fear of falling, I had a hard time just looking at the pictures. I totally would have hired someone.

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  20. OMG, thank God you didn't have a Health and Safety Committe watching you...might see your pictures in a training session one day lol...on how not to do things.

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  21. Yikes...

    Our local fire department recommends that fire alarms be replaced every 10 years. When that time comes, could you consider placing the alarm in a more convenient location?

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  22. I hope you talked to your parents and sister about this before springing it on them through your blog. It was bad enough for us to read, waiting for the outcome. We're all enormously happy that you lived - in one piece - to blog another day. At the very least, before you climbed that ladder, you should have called a neighbor saying that you'd call back in no more than 10 minutes and if you didn't, they should come to your rescue. Worry aside, it was a pretty inventive way to get to the smoke detector. Did your mom ever tell you that you're too smart for your own good?

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  23. do us all a favor and invest in one of those life alert necklaces...we would all feel better =o)

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  24. Beats the heck out of my trampoline idea.

    I'm mostly impressed that you had a battery. I never have a battery until after the alarm is going off.

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  25. I know those darn things have to be at their highest point but.....when they go off in the middle of the night.....lucky you can still climb a ladder.....wonder about those that can't. Thanks for sharing.

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  26. Carol in Colorado2/13/12, 8:59 AM

    OM I can see me doing the same thing with a table and a ladder. We have three varying heights of ladders. We have a smoke detector over our bed attached to a 12 foot ceiling. It's a pain to get too. I am with everyone else, buy a taller ladder. I always wonder what would happen to you if you were to get very sick or had an accident. I hope you have friendly neighbors that would come to help. Stay save!!

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  27. Great solution, though a bit hair-raising! :) Not that I have room to judge. I probably would have done the same thing.
    When I was a kid my dad built this huge metal shed/barn practically by himself. When he was doing some of the roofing stuff I'm pretty sure I recall that there was an a-frame ladder on top of a u-haul at one point. And my sister and I were put on shifts hanging out nearby with the portable phone just in case. :D

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  28. Same here as what Christine said. So glad it all worked out and you are okay. The previous smoke detector I bought had lithium batteries that were to last 10 years. Two years after buying it the batteries gave warning blips at 1:30AM-grrr.

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  29. Sandy from Edgewood, NM2/13/12, 9:41 AM

    You go Cowgirl!!!!!!!

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  30. Scary....glad it all ended well. I vote for buying a taller ladder!

    By the way, to avoid those "your batteries are almost dead" signals at inopportune times, the fire department here recommends changing the smoke alarm battery twice a year at the same time the clocks spring forward or fall back (and don't forget to test the alarm while you are up there!).

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  31. I love your ingenuity. And, the photos from on high! Excellent perspective. That Daffodil...is that a plume of smoke I see coming off her.....?

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  32. What Dreaming said!
    @ Breathe: lol
    @ Carson's 30-parents-tweet: LOL

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  33. I want you to buy a taller ladder. I don't like the looks of that particle board/table arrangement. You've got about a half inch margin for error. And your floor is . . . cement.

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  34. not good, not good! I don't care where the phone is... if you break your neck or knock yourself out cold.... what good is it?

    maybe ... wait for a second body to happen by..or call one over for tea and cake and as your lookout or ladder holder... and if the darn thing actually beeps til you change it... knock it off the ceiling with a big long stick .. to wait for the second ...or if it beeps only occasionally...ear plugs til the other set of hands.. well.you know what I'm saying... just wait ... til something safer....

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  35. Pretty sure Hank is planning a call to the insurance company...

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  36. This made me sweaty and nervous! I vote for hard-wired alarms!

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  37. I was wondering about #4 myself!!

    Linda, if I were ever stuck on a deserted island, I would hope that I'd be stuck with you! You'd get everyone taken care of! (hmmmmm.... maybe you should try out for survivor.... is that still on?)

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  38. PS: haha, Breathe. I love the visual image :)

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  39. Maybe one day solar chips will be sensitive enough to capture enough energy from the light of day, to run off of 24/7...then we wouldn't need to change the batteries EVER!

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  40. LC: I WANT that rug! Where'd you get it?? Please share...

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  41. Netherfieldmom, I think it came from a "Back in the Saddle" catalog about 5 or 6 years ago.

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  42. Love that table and love seeing Smooch's face, lol. She looked worried about you :)

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  43. My friend Steve from An Urban Cottage told me to check out your blog. He seemed sure that I would like it. Well...I LOVE it! I've been reading post after post and I can't help but smile. Then I hit THIS post and I laughed out loud! Not too long ago I battled the smoke detector myself in the middle of the night. I thought I'd lose my mind finding a battery and a way to change it. so...I'm your newest Follower! and thanks for the laugh. :D

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  44. I broke my hip last month and am still recovering from surgery... because of that damn annoying chirping. After I fell off the stool, my cats seemed upset, but didn't go get help. I guess they thought 37 is too young to break a hip, and just wanted me to get up so I could feed them.

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  45. Ok, I seriously thought this was gonna end with at least a sprained ankle. Whew!~

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