Not Knowing

I woke up at 7:00 this morning to the intermittent sound of “Beep, beep, beep” that I know only too well.  The smoke alarm near our kitchen.  The battery no doubt needed to be changed … and I’d been down that road before.

But today was uniquely today.  This sleepy human got up on a chair and unscrewed the alarm from its holder on the ceiling.  Piece of cake.  Then into the kitchen with its bright pot lights to open her up.  I had a new 9 volt battery ready to go.  Looks pretty simple – I’ll just twist the assembly to reveal the inner workings.  So I twisted.  And twisted harder.  Nothing.  “You’re not strong enough, Bruce.”  Well, that was a ridiculous thought.  Of course I’m stronger than an itsy bitsy smoke alarm.  So I grunted, and the alarm grunted back but wouldn’t open.  Okay, okay.  It’s got to be a “lift up” deal.  I found what looked to be an inviting thumb hole on the edge and pulled gently.  Open sesame.  Nope.  So I regrunted.  And the only response was a tiny smile spreading over the face of the alarm.  Yuck.

While all of this was happening, the beeps kept coming.  I tried pressing the “Silence Alarm” button.  All that did was initiate a constant brain-numbing squeal that threatened my sanity.  Despite the blare in my ears, I decided to read all visible instructions on the device.  Not a syllable about how to open the darned thing!  I twisted and pulled some more to no avail, and finally just held the beast up in one hand and stared it down.  “Stare away, buddy.  Won’t do you any good.”

A friend of ours is staying with Jody and me and he had gotten up to assess the state of the racket.  Neal took one look at my ceiling-dwelling friend, put his thumb in the thumb hole … and pulled.  You know the rest.  Open.  Battery inserted.  Replaced in its holder.  No more noise.


Life humbles me again and again.  This morning I developed a bad case of collapsed ego.  My mind assaulted me with a wide variety of “stupid you” invectives.  And then somehow it stopped.  And the tiny smile this time was on my lips.  There’s something strangely spacious about not being good at something.  I couldn’t recognize that in the moment, but “later” is a fine place for an opening of another kind.  Works for me.


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