When all else fails – hit it with a hammer

When bad design causes a meltdown

In the early hours of this morning, I was rudely awoken by an incessant beeping. I tried to sleep through it but by 6.30am I’d had enough.

Upon investigation, the offending beeping was coming from the smoke alarm on the landing. My heart sank. "This isn’t part of my morning routine" I thought to myself as I begrudgingly went into the freezing cold garage to locate the stepladders in order to investigate the ceiling mounted alarm.

I clattered my ladder upstairs – metal ladders seem so noisy when the house is silent.

The instructions on the casing of the irritating (but essential) alarm said to switch it off at the mains, and so, back downstairs I went to the fuse-box to turn off the switch. Further instructions required me to put on my reading glasses and use a torch in order to read the white on white writing – grrrr – all I wanted at this point was to have a cuppa with some toast and not be up and about with noisy ladders.

So – get this – all you have to do is to "insert a flat-bladed screwdriver into the slot, lever it slightly ‘til you feel a movement, slide the casing off, remove the battery and replace with new battery." Sounds easy, right?  Nope! It was never in a million years going to slide anywhere.

Off I toddled back downstairs on the verge of tears, swearing under my breath, tripping over cats meowing for their breakfast… de-tour then to feed annoying, ‘starving’ cats.

Then I had a brilliant idea – YOUTUBE!  It’s helped me fix many things before and I love it, so out with the laptop.  Hmm, great, the video tells me you can order a special tool online that easily undoes the clip and allows the unit to slide off; I’m gonna live with this sodding beeping for days until a special little tool that looks suspiciously like a flat headed screw-driver is delivered? 

Nope, not happening. 

So, I then googled ‘Smoke alarm casing stuck’.  I read through mostly useless and patronising advice until EUREKA! Someone had ‘jokingly’ suggested hitting it with a hammer in the direction of the arrow on the casing (well, he actually said to gently tap it.) I wasted no further time, back into the freezing cold garage – all this in pyjamas and slippers  – found a hammer that seemed excessively large for the task in hand, but desperation was the overriding emotion at this point. 

Back up the stairs, flat-head screwdriver in place to lever the little catch inside, tapping gently, and... nothing. So, with no small amount of fury and a massive WHACK with the hammer, the casing flew off, hit the wall, went spinning off downstairs, hit the bookcase at the bottom, dud battery flew off towards the cats making them both jump (they were in the way what did they expect? Furry free-loaders – pah!)

Off I went back downstairs to retrieve the offending thing, which was surprisingly damage-free apart from the stupid little clip that had prevented my access in the first place!  I picked up the battery that had fallen out and placed it (stupidly) next to the new one... No! Which is the dead battery, and which is new?  How could I have done that?  Why didn’t I leave the dud battery where it was?  Sod’s law had it that I, of course, replaced the dud battery with – what else?  The dud battery! Beeping started again, but now all I had to do was to get that bloody dud battery out, hoy it in the bin and replace it with the new battery.  All that done, I slid the casing into place and bosh! Or so I thought… 20 seconds after I’d been downstairs the incessant beeping started up again!

I checked the casing, it wasn’t quite in place, so what did I do?  Yes! I whacked it back into place with the hammer, held my breath and... 

No more beeping!

After tidying all the tools away and turning the fuse back on, I ended up with about 10 minutes to get ready for work, have breakfast and say nice things to the cats before I got in my car. I drove down the road and promptly got stuck in traffic… nice.

Anyway, to cut to the chase – why would anyone design something that not only makes me swear but necessitates more than one forum and several youtube videos and a large hammer?  This is really bad design, it upset me and totally wrecked my morning routine.  But guess what? I will never buy one of these smoke alarms ever again; when the times comes that I need a replacement I'll research and test out the ease of removal for replacement batteries and buy one that's good, simple, and has a clean design because that’s what we all deserve – that and peace on a morning – oh, and cats that can open their own packets of cat food!

Bridget Carter