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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Less Safe, More Sound

Sometimes having a thing is worse than not having it in the first place.

Obviously, that’s true in some cases. Like court dates, or the herpes, or a lunch date with Amanda Bynes.

(What’s that? Too soon, you say?

Well, how the hell should I know when your last court date was? Jeez.)

But occasionally, even an ostensibly good thing is worse than nothing at all. Like our home alarm system, for instance.

My wife and I have lived in our condo for almost four years now. At first, we took advantage of the fancy alarm system the previous owners had installed. It was from one of those big companies, with ads on TV and colorful signs you stick on the door to tell would-be robbers to stay the hell away.

“The old windows were original to the building, made back in the twelfth century or whatever, and probably made from pounded quartz and flecks of rock and old dinosaur scales.”

(So goes the theory, anyway. Other people say that just tells them which screwdriver they’re going to need to get around the keypad.)

A couple of years in, though, we decided to have all the windows replaced. The old windows were original to the building, made back in the twelfth century or whatever, and probably made from pounded quartz and flecks of rock and old dinosaur scales. They were heavy and drafty and a pain to raise and lower, and so we decided to drag ourselves into at least the 1980s and install windows that actually kept a different temperature on either side.

Obviously, these new windows had sills too narrow for the old alarm sensors. Because what fun would life be, otherwise?

So for a while, we went alarmless. Or, as Douglas Adams might have put it, “mostly alarmless”. The door sensors worked, and there was still a motion detector perched in our foyer. But most of the possible surreptitious entrances were unguarded. And sometimes, knowing this, we didn’t bother to set what was left of the alarm at all.

(Besides the fact that the system was always chirping at us about window sensors it thought were a problem. Ooooh, it gasped, I’m detecting that the sensors for window number five may have separated!

Yeah, ya think? The top one’s in a pile with twelve others on my dresser, and the other one got thrown away with some old papers six weeks ago. It’s probably in a landfill in western New Jersey by now. I’d say the two are separated, chum.)

Eventually, we got tired of the situation. Not that we did anything about it, mind you; that would be ‘work‘. But we did decide we were fed up, and should totally look for a replacement alarm system. At some point. Later. After this episode of Elementary, for sure.

Soon after, my wife got an email from an alarm company, basically asking: “You want we should install an alarm system for youse?”

I’m paraphrasing. But not much.

She set up a meeting with them, which was all well and good until I saw the email. I did a bit of online digging, and shockingly — shockingly, I say — they weren’t the most reputable bunch of cold-emailing, poor-grammaring, blat-out-an-ad-and-see-who-comes-running security experts. I know, right? Shockingly.

That did serve to light our fire — in the form of my wife saying, “well, if youse don’t like them, then youse find us a new alarm, pal“.

(I’m paraphrasing again. More, this time. Probably.)

So I did. I searched reviews, checked around, and hooked us up with a highly-regarded, reasonably-priced, self-installed-but-well-supported alarm system. State of the art — monitoring, sensors, keypad, the works. And their home security doohickeys fit our new windows, so we were happy. And we set the alarm, every time, right before bedtime and before leaving the house. All was well.

Until summer.

You may be aware of the heat waves that have swept through the East Coast in the past couple of months. You may or may not know that our condo — for all its fancy windows and anti-invasion thingamabobs — does not have air conditioning. Instead, we have ceiling fans in three rooms that we turn to everloving supersonic high in the summer, and sit underneath wishing the couch was made of liquid nitrogen. And we open all the windows. And leave them open, at all times, to avoid the facial melting and spontaneous human combustion.

This poses a problem for our alarm, apparently. See, normally, our alarm coos to us in a sweet, reassuring British-accented female voice that all is well. “Alahm activated!“, she’ll purr. Or “Please entah pahsscode!

(I don’t know why the voice is British, like that’s supposed to make us feel more secure or something. Seriously, what do they know about home security? They did a pretty piss-poor job of holding onto their colonies; I’m just saying.

Frankly, if you want to make me feel good about my home alarm, program it with Pulp Fiction-era Samuel L. Jackson’s voice. I want to arm that thing and hear:

Yo, your shit is muthafucking locked down, dog! I will cap a bitch that comes up in here without a passcode!

See, that would make me feel secure. It would make me want to get the hell out of the house really fast — but I wouldn’t be worried about burglars. Does my alarm look like a bitch to you?)

So. The windows. Here’s the thing. When we had no alarm — or a mostly crippled one — the house was probably less secure. But no one knew that, and it was fine.

Now we have a fully-operational system, with a motion sensor and all sorts of other gizmos. But we’ve cracked a few windows — the better not to steam ourselves like a couple of underclawed lobsters — and when we set the alarm, it tells us about it:

“KITCHEN WINDOW ALAHM BYPAHSSED!”

Did I mention it’s loud as all hell? As in, loud enough to alert any hoodlums walking by — just outside our open windows — precisely where our soft targets are?

“REAH WINDOW ALAHM BYPAHSSED!”

I can almost see a gang of home invaders, camped outside with hands cupped to their ears and scribbling in little notebooks.

“BAHTHROOM WINDOW ALAHM BYPAHSSED!”

I’ve tried to muffle the warnings. I put my hands over the speakers. I shut the keypad unit in a desk drawer. Nothing works. It’s like a beacon; an inextinguishable lighthouse sending beams of security flaw information to every criminal for miles around.

“LIVING ROOM WINDOW ALAHM… BYPAHSSED!!”

Maybe I should leave out milk and cookies. Would that make them go easier on us? I could unplug all the electronics, so they don’t trip on anything while they pack it up to hock it.

“BEDROOM WINDOW ALAHM ACTIVATED!”

Oooh, we got one!

“JUHST KIDDING, OLD SPORT! BEDROOM WINDOW BYPAHSSED!”

This is why I say: we were better off without the alarm. We might not have been secure, but at least we weren’t broadcasting schematics of all the available entry points onto the street with a loudspeaker.

Luckily, no one’s taken the bait yet. If ever someone does, I’m sure they’ll haul away all of our precious things before one of them tries to leave via the back door — which is actually alarmed when the thing is set. And woe to him. Because some smartass English chick is going to be very cross about it. She might even call the local constable.

Either that, or she’ll give them directions to our car. Who’s idea was this stupid alarm, anyway?

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