Hide and squeak; a modern mystery!

Photo by Markus Winkler

“There is it again!” my wife Martha raised her voice to ensure I heard her. “I’m almost resolved to this relentless freaking squeaking. It’s been a constant companion for days.”

“Huh?” I queried, wistfully.

“That beep, chirp, whatever it is. I hear it twice a minute now.”

“I haven’t noticed, my hearing aid is off.”

“Well, turn the damn thing on and listen.”

Madam Martha was clearly at her wit’s end. I switched my ear device on and sure enough, tweety-bird was alive and well. “Calm down, no problem. It’s probably the hall smoke detector battery. I think it’s been a year since I changed it.”

I chose a top-of-the-line 9V battery. The cheap ones don’t last. It was a quick switch. I was back in my Lazy Boy before you can say Mr. Fixit, smugly congratulating myself for my restoration skills.

Not exactly a hero, but a maintenance act that might impress a troubled missus.

Chirp! We both popped our heads up from reading.

“I guess your fix didn’t work. What now?”

She looked defeated.

“Well, we have another smoke detector in the other room. That’s probably the culprit.”

My wife just stared at me. That silence spoke volumes — but then she did speak.

“Whatever, I’m going for a walk. I can’t find my keys so please lock the door and be home when I get back.” She donned her walking attire and the front door closed abruptly.

I needed this alone time. Gave me time to think without wife-strife. I locked the door and went back to my electrics stash. My battery supply yielded another fresh one, but the inventory was dwindling. The first battery may be okay, so I’ll keep it in reserve. Best to change them both simultaneously.

Switcheroo success and now back to the chair. I opened my book.

Dang! Another blasted beep!

I needed to solve this. It was detective time. The house has three levels. I attended the top floor with my hearing aid cranked up and heard nada chirrups. Great. I quickly moved down to the basement and heard the peeps, but they seemed distant. Through my vigilant isolation techniques and deep analysis, I determined the problem was related to the main floor.

So, I cleverly asked myself, what technological devices can possibly cause this? There were a few possibilities that offered a ‘get-your-attention’ audible for some purpose: the CO2 alarm near the far corner of the room; the smart-home equipment, featuring automated thermostat and AC controls; the security devices and motion detectors; the home phone and cells; the high-tech stove; the wireless-capable fridge; the new dishwasher.

And it goes on: the microwave; the washer and dryer; the two computers and iPads; the gas fireplace controller; the TVs and remotes; the coffee maker; the porch video system; the smart watches and clocks; even the radio!

I systematically assessed each unit’s call sign. They didn’t all chirp. Some dinged or buzzed, a few sounded like a bell, some played a high-pitched undulation or warble, and a couple offered a digitized voice. One device that I had forgotten about was a battery-operated symbol from a Christian Book Store that was gifted to me and lived in a drawer.

When triggered it played Jesus Loves Me non-stop. In the same drawer was a tacky greeting card that sang Happy Birthday to You when opened. It was supposed to be a singing cat, but it sounded like Tiny Tim after sucking helium. I needed to assess everything.

The door opened. Momma came home. “Did you find it, Sherlock?”

“No need to be rude,” I said. “I’m doing my best.” I updated her on my progress which led to the bottom line. “No, I haven’t found it yet.”

“You’re an engineer for God’s sake. I can’t believe this irritating sound can’t be squelched. Should we plan to move out? At least you can turn off your aid. Doesn’t help my sensitive ears.”

Whoa, that engineer shot struck home. “Leave it with me,” I said. “I’ll find it.”

My mate retired upstairs for a nap offering more liberty to hunt. I had an idea. I unplugged everything before dropping to all fours on the living room floor for a better perspective and focus. I closed my eyes and followed the chirps using only my sense of amplified hearing. I crawled on hands and knees toward the thirty-second interval sound as it got louder.

I was blind but other senses were honed. My internal doppler radar finally fixed on a confined area in my dear wife’s office room. I had acquired ground zero.

I opened my eyes. In front of me under a desk was Martha’s infrequently used purse. I unzipped the pocket and peeked in. There lay the perpetrator, squawking intermittently. A key finder doing its job, right beside a set of keys. I pushed a button and silenced the device, then rolled over, wallowing with glee at the irony.

The queen of our now tranquil abode emerged from her rest and shuffled down the stairs, not wearing a crown but sporting a frown.

“Guess what?” I voiced.

“What?” she grumbled.

“I found your keys.”