Sunday, December 13, 2009

Panic if you see a Krampus

In the course of getting to know our relatively new house I discovered something: It is capable of making the worst sound ever heard in the history of human hearing. I suppose I could make an audio file of the actual sound, but then none of you would like me any longer, and you might even wish me tremendous ill. I wouldn't blame you in the slightest. Houses should not make a sound like the one our alarm system made yesterday.

We don't use our alarm system. It isn't monitored, and in fact it took us four months to beat the system into enough submission that a chime would not sound each and every time someone opened a door, or window. The chime itself was mild enough, but at three in the morning, when my nineteen-year-old son would come and go, as is the realm of having college students living at home, it was less "mild, rather pleasant" and more "soon I will lose my entire mind to sleep deprivation". We had to dig through five different manuals just to find the existing master code, change the master code, and shut that thing up. The blessed silence that ensued was bliss.

I think it lulled me into a false sense of security. I had forgotten that the alarm system was actually my enemy, second only to that freaking carbon monoxide detector that commenced beeping every minute, in the depths of a box, which took me a full day to find, and then I had to drown it in the pool to get it to stop. Twice, since it came back to life after it dried out the first time. Blasted thing.

Anyway, we do take our smoke detecting seriously, and when the system began chirping, quite loudly, every single minute, we made great haste in dragging out the ladder and replacing the 9 Volt battery in what appeared to be the chirping culprit. This mysteriously caused every detector in the house to begin chirping in turn and we found something about our home: We had no earthly idea where the detectors are here. My husband and I would station ourselves at different points in the house, waiting for the chirp, and then trying to hunt the darned thing down. You'd think that would be an easy task but it's a very large house, with peculiar acoustics and one of the smoke detectors turned out to be in closet. So that took over an hour, and required a quick dash to the store to secure more 9 Volts.

When we were done replacing every battery in the house, the system decided it was "Not Ready" and continued to emit a piercing chirp every minute. Try this for an hour and you will find that it wears on the nerves. As my husband was replacing the ladder in the garage, I stood before the above panel and made a mistake of ear-splitting proportions. I read the buttons, and pressed the corresponding key. One said, "Off", the other "chime". I thought perhaps "chime" actually meant "chirp". I was very wrong, and was soon to live in a world of regret. Now if you study that picture you will see what I didn't, there's a nice little line connecting the off and the chime button. The line helpfully proclaims "Panic".

Wow. How entirely apropos. I didn't press them together, even I'm not that foolish, but I must have pressed them in close enough proximity that, indeed, it was time to panic. And pray for deafness, because, holy hell, what a noise.

Normally I'm good in an emergency. If you are in the mood to start spurting blood mysteriously, I'm actually a good pick to do that around because I remain calm in the moment. I wouldn't recommend the spurting, but I tend to rise to the occasion, and then have a massive nervous breakdown afterward. This evidently applies only when it is someone elses problem. If I caused it? It turns out that I morph into a cartoon character with a head as level as Daffy Duck, complete with spluttering.

The sound was actually beyond description. Sincerely, if someone broke in to our home in the middle of the night, I would much rather they steal every single one of our possessions, our cars, every jar of food and the light bulbs too, rather than hear that sound. I desperately hope that is not the sound the fire alarm makes or we're all going to perish in our beds as a preemptive measure rather than get up to investigate that sound. It is the sound that howling evil must make at the edge of the endless abyss. When and if the world ever gets sucked into a void in the universe, the sound beforehand will likely sound a great deal like that. Imagine the sound of every toddler throughout the course of time, shrieking as one, in the midst of tantrum of legendary proportions and you will have grasped about half the horror of that particular sound.

It was, to sum up, really and truly an awful sound, and its source was exactly four feet above my head. I managed not to simply drop dead as a means of escape. As my husband came flinging, wild-eyed, through the door, I began to ineffectually beat helplessly on the control panel, which if it is even humanly possible, made the sound worse. At which point I commenced with the Daffy Ducking by putting both hands firmly over my ears and whirling like a dervish in a tight, panicked circle while simultaneously my knees performed the Charleston.

"What made that happen?!?" My husband said, or rather, bellowed. For all I know he actually said, "Is that the two minute warning of imminent destruction?" because all I could see was his eyes bugging out of his head, and some wild gesticulating in the general direction

I turned and sprinted with great haste to the fuse box outside where it was at least half as horrible in terms of sound. I briefly considered never returning. Perhaps I could just keep running? Join the circus, pursue the life of a vagabond, sell my organs on some dubious market to make some dosh and live under an assumed name. Instead I turned off power to the entire house in less than two seconds.

It did absolutely nothing. My husband, hot on my heels (and presumably also considering life on the lam) stared wildly around.

"What the hell do we do?" He yodeled.

"I don't know!" I screamed back helpfully. "Move?"

We both turned and ran swiftly back into the house, my husband pausing to grab what appeared to be the manual for the alarm system as he sprinted through the butler's pantry.

Stopped short in the middle of the kitchen, trying to figure out what to do, I did the only sensible thing I could come up with: I ran into the closet-style pantry and closed the door after me. No, I don't know why. Struck me as the right move at the time. It was somewhat quieter in there but as I couldn't live amongst the oatmeal and pasta (although this was also a tempting option) I emerged and bizarrely did my dervish/Charleston/Duck routine once more before running towards my husband. So that he would not die alone.

In my haste I kicked the near life out of my cat, who was acting as if he was in the midst of being electrocuted. I'm sure he has permanent damage to his neurological system, but considering his everyday personality, I'm not sure we'll notice a difference. I stared in horror at him before taking another step towards my husband when peace and quiet crashed down on us all, and the sound of a billion toddlers cut off. It was like Nirvana.

My husband stuck his head around the corner, and I swear that one of his eyes appeared to be much larger than the other, and he had a decidedly mad scientist expression on his face.

"What happened?" He was clutching the manual to his chest, out of breath.

"I happened, it was me." I said, walking past him and lying down on the living room floor in the shape of a capital X. "I did it, I was trying to make it stop tweeting. Oh God, tweeting is so much better than that."

"That sound is more likely to kill us than save our lives. I hope it never has reason to go off."

"Yes, we'd be doomed, entirely." My heart was hammering in my chest.

"Oh happy dagger!" my husband yelled, and we both got an adrenaline induced case of the giggles.

"Thank you so much, honey. I'm so sorry. I promise I will never touch anything in this house again. I can't believe you didn't just hot-wire the car and leave me to my fate."

"I had the keys in my pocket, actually. From now on we need a clearly mapped out exit strategy, keep the passports in the glove box."

"Flee the jurisdiction and have Kimberly list the house as we make our escape." I supplied.

This was when I realized that in the four minutes that the worst sound in the history of hearing had been going on, I hadn't seen my son. I removed myself from the living room floor, miraculously without even the use of a person-sized spatula, long enough to shout down into the basement:

"Are you alive down there?"

"Yes," came a rather calm reply, "I'm hiding."

"Wise lad." I called back, and returned gratefully to the floor, this time as a Y.

It was an hour later, as I was lying limply on the couch, waiting to stop feeling as if I needed to jump directly out of my skin at a moment's notice, when I discovered via The Colbert Report on Tivo that if only I was an Austrian child, I likely could have handled that terrible fright with aplomb.

I've never seen the Austrian Krampus before, and if you've never seen The Colbert Report, please be aware that he's a comedian, doing a parody of a Conservative talk show host as a means of satire. At the end of his report, there is a bit that explains what the Krampus is. I've seen it before, normally it's an amusing looking devil-cartoon, who travels with St. Nick, and scares bad children. The Austrian version turns out to be, shall we say, a bit hardcore. Austrian children are apparently made of tough stuff.

As a full grown woman if one of these characters in costume broke into my house, I'd likely scream my fool head off in fright, and make great speed towards anywhere but where it was.

I'd also hit the pound and asterick keys in combination, because I have a feeling it is the music of his soul. That's got to be what that sound is, it's not a "Hit this Panic Alert to bring aid to your side" but rather, "When you are panicking, this is the sound your central nervous system makes."
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude - Hallmark & Krampus
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating


Vera said...

What stupendous chaos, and so well described that I was fetched up giggling fit to bust such that Hubs sitting beside me playing chess on his PC did a growl and a glare at me for being so noisy and disturbing his concentration! Well done you for a funny and descriptive blog.

Jo said...

Omigod, I love it. I could hear a strange sound as I was reading this, and I realized it was my laughing out loud...!

You've made my day.

I have only one smoke detector in my tree house, and the alarm goes off every time I have a shower. It thinks the steam is smoke. The first time it happened, it scared the bejeezus out of me.

A few years ago I accidentally broke into my daughter's house when I was babysitting the Munchkins. I had a key, but I didn't have the code to turn off the house alarm. Within minutes the house was surrounded by police cars -- RCMP, no less -- and the Munchkins and I almost had a heart attack.

What did we do before we had these things?

I can't open the video - darn the luck. I will have to Google a Krampus. :-)

The Bug said...

I was shaking I was laughing so hard. Dr. M was getting annoyed with me. I'll have to make him read it so he can experience the hilarity!

That's so funny about the Krampus. We went to a local historic house this past weekend. They have a Christmas exhibit showing traditions from the 1800s to present - & revealing that most of our current traditions in the US come from writers, not from actual traditions. Anyway, some of the folks there were talking about something similar to the Krampus - called the Belsnickel, which apparently terrified children as well. What are people thinking?

Miranda said...

You really got me at having the passports in the car. Too funny! I hope your ear drums have returned to normal and you no longer have that sound in your head!

Amy said...

Alane, Thanks for the levity but I am so sorry for your distress! Seriously, that was the funniest thing I've read in months, maybe years. I think your description of your poor husband was the best; looking like a "mad scientist"!!!

Kyle said...

Now that was funny. Alane, what an adventure! I really enjoyed that story, though I'm horrified you had to endure it in real life. Is everyone's hearing ok?

Nancy said...

Oh, I know exactly what you mean! Our system went off when we lived in Minnesota and it was all connected so every one started beeping throughout the whole house! It was a big house, too. I called the company and they said there is a button you push on every one of them to expend "pent up" energy. It worked. We were supposed to do it once a year when we changed the batteries. Go figure.

Great, funny writing! LOL!

Love Colbert!

Jennifer D said...

So funny! At least for us readers. You tell such a great story. I am still weeping from laughing so hard. I am gonna have my hubby read this one, he is gonna love it.

I adore Colbert he is hilarious.

Land of shimp said...

Hello, Vera! Isn't it marvelous how affronted pets become by the sound of unexpected laughter? "Look now, I'm sure I didn't approve that beforehand." Thank you for the comment!

Jo, every time you take a shower? My goodness, I'm surprised you didn't just fall down the drain in shock the first time. Hehe, well...that settles it, no fires for you! You'll be immune to the sound of the smoke detector. I wonder if everyone in your condo complex has the same thing happen? Cleanliness is next to ...loudness :-)

The Bug, isn't that Krampus just the scariest looking thing? I was (unsurprisingly) a very imaginative child, and I'm telling you, I wouldn't have slept a wink from five to fifteen if that had been part of our Christmas tradition. There's something to take more seriously than a lump of coal!

Miranda, that's literally what my husband said. He's a funny man. Not long after I married him, I met someone who used to work with him, who was asking me, "Oh, he's so funny! Is he still that funny? I remember that he was really funny." I wasn't really sure what to say so I replied, "No, marriage has beaten that out of him." and the man gave me the oddest look. As if it were true, and I had the ability to suck all the mirth out of human beings.

Hehe, Amy, we're fine and all is well. There really was a moment, after I turned off all the power and it didn't do anything to the sound, at all that I thought, "Oh God, what are we going to do? We just replaced all the batteries and it's using them to make that noise!!!" and then I envisioned trying to get them out of there.

Turns out my husband had been thinking the same thing, hence the expression of encroaching madness. He's really rather tall, and something about Rob being so big just makes it even funnier because truly, I thought I'd given him some sort of mild stroke. "Oh dear, I hope his eyes don't stay like that."

Everyone's hearing is fine, Kyle, thank you for asking! The cat seems to have survived being momentarily used as a fuzzy soccer ball, too. I've got a friend who once told me, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I LOVE it when small things go wrong for you, they are always so funny." ...which made me think she must have some strange little voodoo doll or mishap for me ;-)

In our old house we built an addition, and had an room with a hot tub indoors, not once, but twice my husband forgot that he was filling it, and overflowed the darned thing, drowning the back furnace (it came back to life after drying out) and generally creating mayhem.

So at least we both have a history of creating disaster, and dealing with it together. What a hilarious alarm system though. I'm not sure it's a theft deterrent as much as a deterrent to clear thought.

Hey Nancy! I'm so glad we weren't the only ones who have had to play "Hunt the detector", it took us ages to find the one in walk-in closet.

Isn't Colbert just marvelous? Between Stewart and Colbert there's always a reason to laugh at the political goings on...which sometimes saves all our sanity.

Thank you, Jennifer! I think the easiest stories to write nonfiction humor about are about the small accidents in life. We all experience them, so people have this built in empathy about them.

For the past couple of days whenever my husband has been out running errands and returns we greet each other with, "Hi honey, I don't touch the alarm system anymore!"

DUTA said...

I wasn't able to see the video, but your detailed description of things and sounds is hilarious.

I must tell you I hate alarm systems of any kind. Unfortunately,progress brings with it also a lot of annoyance.

Pauline said...

First you as an X, then as a Y. Still chuckling, not at the adventure itself but at your adept telling ;)

Frances Tyrrell said...

"one of his eyes appeared to be much larger than the other", LOL. I feel as though I was there.
Actually have been there and more or less done that. In a severe thunderstorm 10 years ago the deluge of rain found a path through my roof, attic and into my wired-to-the-house-current smoke detector. Following on a large clap of thunder it was most impressive. And inescapable.

Thank you for making me laugh to tears!

Land of shimp said...

I do too, DUTA. I can't stand the things. I'm sure they've saved all sorts of lives but for me they have always only been the things that I accidentally set off! I'm too absent-minded (I mean, lost in deep and reflective thought, yes, deep and reflective thought...okay, not).

I'm glad it made you smile :-)

Thank you, Pauline. I highly suggest lying around like an X from time to time. It's very soothing ;-)

You're very welcome, Frances. My husband is a wonderful and funny sort of person, and he has a very expressive face. I did for a moment think that i might have induced a stroke for him though!

I'm very glad it made you laugh. I got an email from a friend last night. He'd just checked my blog, and the email was entitled, "Oh goody!! Something went wrong with your house!"

He loves it when small things go wrong for me (and he's a different person from the one I referenced above)...I think it's nice to know that these small things go wrong for us all.

That we all do rather dunder-headed things from time-to-time!

Suldog said...

Holy God, Woman! Where have you been hiding? Lines like this...

"What the hell do we do?" He yodeled.

"I don't know!" I screamed back helpfully. "Move?"

... make me happy in all places that count. Yodeled. Perfect.

I am placing you on my sidebar immediately.

Miss OverThinker said...

I think this is the funniest post you have ever written, or at least since I started reading your blog. I know you didn't mean it to be funny and I am sure it must have been quite irritating to go thru all of the chaos you described but reading it I just couldn't stop laughing.. you are hilarious!

Land of shimp said...

Hello, Suldog! I've been hiding from my alarm system, of course ;-) Thank you very much. I can't think of a nicer compliment, and it is greatly appreciated.

Hey there, MOT. I did actually mean it to be funny :-) As alarming as it was, and as much of a shock to the system as it was, it was also hilarious even in the moments afterward. I ran into the pantry, it's impossible to not laugh at that in myself. "Hello, what the blazes was that??"

I've always liked satire, and that's probably a good thing, because I am frequently ridiculous. So I figured why not invite everyone else to laugh at me right along with myself? I'm very glad it gave you a laugh!

New York Caterer said...

Very Nice Stuff!!

Bryan said...

What kind of sound it would be in your new home. Is it like a beep from fire alarm system or something other than that?

Land of shimp said...

Thank you, New York Caterer! I appreciate the visit in what must be one of your busiest times of the year. By the way, you narrowly escaped being greeted as my brother :-) Only careful study of your profile finally provided the clue that, in fact, you aren't my half brother but it was still nice of you to stop by!

Bryan, with great trepidation (and some might say a stunning lack of common sense) I actually did warily click on that link :-) Thankfully, it was mute although I already had a plan to murder my speakers, just in case.

I'm actually going to describe the sound, and I warn you: this will be boring.

The sound of the smoke alarm, as judged by the "press this button after installing battery" thingamajig sounded bizarrely like microphone feedback. The alarm didn't sound like that.

It sounded a little bit like an incredibly rapid police car alarm, about three times the pace, but with an added, extra shrill, staccato (and did I mention LOUD) beep added into it. To call that a "beep" is to commit a sin of understatement of epic was closer to a BLARE. Terribly unnerving. I'm sure intruders would lose their ability to think (and likely bladder control, too) but the downside? So would the occupants in any prolonged exposure.

It's an Ademco alarm, if that helps you identify it...and I'm sure everyone here in this subdivision likely has the same alarm.

If I ever encounter a weeping family on the streets here? I'm going to have a very solid idea as to why.

Frank Baron said...


Ha! That one cracked me up. ;)

Your evocation of the aural horror was realistic enough to be near- palpable. Glad I only had to read about it. :)

Land of shimp said...

Thank you, Frank, and thank you for stopping by :-)

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OMDS said...

Sounds funny. Well done for writing such an excellent story line.