The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

In my twenties, I worked on Maui. I lived in a housing unit controlled by my employer, and in general it was pretty nice. There were several duplexes all in a row, and everyone in the little 'neighborhood' knew each other.

One rainy night, as was typical for that elevation, I was asleep, warm in my bed, when the fire alarm began to scream.

I got out of bed, saw there was no fire, but the alarm wasn't going to stop just because there was no fire.

I got a chair dragged it to the front door, reached the alarm, but it had been screwed into the ceiling incorrectly, preventing me from taking it down.

There was no button to reset it. I knew it was probably waking up the people in the units beside me. I grabbed the plastic edges and ripped it off the ceiling.

Great success!

Except, not. The battery had been sealed in it at manufacturing. There was no way to open the battery compartment without breaking the plastic casing.

But it was so, so, so loud.

I couldn't take it. I grabbed a frying pan, also provided by my employer, and took the alarm outside into the grass. I beat the alarm with the frying pan in the dark, rainy night.

The alarm, initially going strong, dimmed in volume, then the sound collapsed in on itself, and finally, all I could hear was the pitter patter of Hawaiian rain.

I gathered the broken pieces up and went back inside, wondering if my neighbors had peeked out of the window to see a shadow of a woman massacring a fire alarm in the misty night.

Inside, I saw the frying pan was broken. The handle had separated from the actual pan. My late night/early morning brain didn't understand this. I had seen countless cartoons as a child. Pioneer women clonking bears on the heads with cookware. How could this pan have broken after a single entanglement with a cheap fire alarm?

But I didn't worry about that then. Instead, I went back to bed.

It wasn't until the morning, after gazing at the previous night's carnage while drinking a cup of coffee, that I realized, there's a difference between cast iron and hand-me-down scratched Teflon.

What did I learn that night?

The true home defense pan is cast iron.