“You’ve reached the Los Gatos Fire Department. What is your name and address?”
“Operator, this is NOT an emergency.”
“Oh—okay—how may I help you?”
And that’s how it started. All night long rain hammered the windows and garbage cans clattered down the street. It was unnerving. I needed coffee and came downstairs to the sound of electronic beeping. It frightened me because I had never heard this noise before. It was from the oven. The display panel flashed F1 in red letters like a bomb warning.
I said to no one “What should I do?”
I found the oven manual; dialed the 800 number.
“Sorry,” they said, “but we are not open on Sunday.”
Next was the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “We have a major power outage and are responding only to emergency calls.”
Beeping was not an emergency even though it was driving me mad, and that flashing red F1 was scaring me to death. I found the Problems Page. There it was in bold letters: F1 and F7. It read: press the off button and hold it for three minutes. If that doesn’t work disconnect the power to the oven.
The heavy cord behind the refrigerator– look for it. I coaxed the fridge out an inch at a time so I could peek behind it. There was no such thing as a cord coming from the oven, but the dust bunnies back there looked like baby rabbits. Then I remembered: the built-in permanent oven connection was in the cupboard under the oven. Yep, there it was. Out in the rain I went to open the breaker box behind a large rosemary bush. I pressed the wet branches aside and opened the panel, found the breakers for the kitchen and dining room and turned them off. Back to the kitchen to see if the beeping had stopped. It had not. It was still screaming at me.
Got my hand pruners, went back out in the rain to cut off some branches; tossed them aside and repeated the power-off-for-three-minute-routine twice again and finally gave up. Neither of my two sons answered their phones, so the police station was my next contact. The dispatcher said, “Call the fire station and here is their number,” and that’s where this story started.
The fire station lady said she would have to send someone out. I said, “Okay, but this is NOT an emergency. Tell them NO SIREN.”
“Mrs. Auchard, I’ll tell them NO SIREN, but they’ll have to come out in a truck.”
The word “truck” fooled me. I imagined a fire station “pickup truck.” But five minutes later the heavy rumble of machinery on the street announced the real thing: a genuine fire engine with no siren. The big thing lumbered to a stop in front of my house and I waved the firemen inside. Two tall young Gods had come to my aid. I explained the problem and one of them spoke up. “Take me to your breaker panel.” I led him to the outdoors and he suggested I stay in out of the rain.
I said, “I’m already wet from going back and forth three times and I want to see how you fix this.” He showed me the main switch that would shut off everything in the house. (Why didn’t I see that thing? I could’ve saved them a trip.) He threw the lever in the opposite direction and it stopped the maddening beep that was causing my Headache from Hades.
Mission Accomplished. But I almost said, “Before you leave, could you guys pull the fridge out all the way so I can vacuum behind it?” I chickened out and said instead, “Could you guys push the fridge back against the wall for me?”
My dirty floor behind the fridge was not an emergency and neither was a maddening, mind numbing beep that couldn’t be shut off. They were trials that tested my preparedness. I was not prepared, so the next thing I must find is where to shut off the gas and water in case a REAL emergency comes my way.
All illustrations are by Betty Auchard.