My Adventures With Home Security Electronics

Apparently, everyone I’m related to went security crazy after Katrina. I’ve slept over at three different houses since arriving into town Saturday, and all three of them are electronically monitored. And none of those electrical security systems seem to like me much.

Oh, all the people like me just fine. But the little demons haunting all the wires, they hate me.

Monday morning

Mom introduced me to her system on the first night. I was going to be up until ungodly hours trying to meet a Monday deadline (an act of futility, as it turned out; my editor ended up giving me an extension). It was very likely I’d want to go for a walk, or duck out into the store-room for a Coke. So Mom gave me the run-down: password “stay,” password “away,” verbal password for the people who call you up if the alarm goes off.

Mom and Dad use Di Maggio Home Electronics. I can tell you, their products work as advertised….

And I’m not just saying this because I’m fond of the Di Maggio family, what with growing up two doors down from them and all. I’m saying so because the moment I came down the stairs at 5:50 AM on Monday morning, all hell broke loose on like twenty audible frequencies.

What followed was lots of confusion and shouting. I banged on my parents’ bedroom door, convinced that, since it wasn’t the fire alarm and I hadn’t opened the door to set off the home security system, the carbon monoxide alarm was going off. Mom came busting out of there yelling “You opened the door!” I misheard this as an imperative and threw the door open. Mom starts disarming the home security system. “Close the door!” OK, maybe this was some security disarming ritual I hadn’t been shown yet. I close the door. The phone rings. Mom answers and appeases the caller. “Yes, this is Mrs. LeBoeuf, we’re fine, the passcode is [****].”

Then everything’s quiet. I finally say, “So what the hell was that?” And Mom’s like, “What do you think? You opened the door!” At which point I get mad. “I did not open the door!”

“…You didn’t?”

“No! All I did was come down the stairs!”

“Oh. Sorry. Your father must have armed the system for ‘Away’ when he left. That turns on the motion detector.”

So, yeah. Di Maggio Home Electronics works as advertised. But sometimes their customers don’t.

Monday Evening/Tuesday Morning

After my first day on the job with East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity, I spent the night with an aunt and uncle in Covington, the ones in the neighborhood of the St. Tammany Regional Heart Center. I don’t see much of my various northshore relatives when I’m in town, so avoiding a cross-Pontchartrain commute this week was a good excuse to do something about it.

We had a great visit. I got a tour of the post-Katrina renovations, which were astonishing and elegant. (Quick: why is hurricane season like Christmas? By the end of it, you’ll have a tree in your house. However, the branch of my family to get a tree in the house was also the branch that enjoys an anaesthesiologist’s salary.) My aunt cooked us an excellent dinner. I gave her a quick tutorial in the use of Microsoft Word. Lots of gabbing happened.

At bedtime, I was not taught how to disarm the security system. But I was advised that one existed, and that they arm the motion detector at night on purpose, and I shouldn’t go downstairs if I wake up before them.

Next morning, I didn’t even move towards the stairs until the kitchen-puttering noises around 5:45 AM told me it was safe.

Wednesday Morning

Tuesday night I spent at the home of a different aunt and uncle in Covington, this time off Highway 40. Like I’ve mentioned, their daughter was in from New York, and I never get to see her, so we hung out a bit. Plus my grandmother lives with them. I think for once I’m getting the requisite amount of visiting done this trip and nobody’s going to complain.

We had a huge dinner. Practically everyone in the family showed up. Mom came up from the southshore. My aunt and uncle, the ones I stayed with Monday night, came over. My grandmother and my aunt visiting from Georgia came home from their shopping trip. Gumbo happened in vast happy quantities.

What with one thing and another, it’s probably understandable that no one thought to warn me that this house is protected by electrons too.

Wednesday morning I tip-toed through my grandmother’s side of the house, trying hard not to wake up anyone. I’ll admit I noticed the home security controller box on my way to the door, but I figured it mustn’t be armed. If it was, I would have been told about it, right? I opened the door.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Oh shit. I hurried over to the box. Instructions appeared to be identical to the one at Mom’s house. But I didn’t know the passcode.

Beep-beep. Beep-beep.

I knocked on my grandmother’s door, but by the time she woke up enough to answer me, all hell had broken loose on an 18-decibal level.


Wednesday night/Thursday morning

Which brings us to Thursday morning, the ostensible date/time of this post.

Wednesday afternoon, soon as I got in, my uncle met me at the door. “So have you been told the passcode yet?” Yes, I had. He told me again, just to make sure. Plus at least two different but related mnemonics for it. I was set.

The rest of the evening was taken up with hanging out in front of the TV, driving for snowballs, eating dinner, getting to see another cousin and meeting his girlfriend, yadda yadda yadda. Fast-forward to late night. Everyone’s gone to bed and I’m falling asleep on the sofa. I turn off the television and the light, and I curl up into unconsciousness.

Some time later I’m awakened by a sound:

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Oh now. What now?

Beep-beep. Beep-beep.

Oh, crap. I get up, run to the front door, and hastily disarm the security system before it can yell at me. Whew!

I couldn’t have been asleep but for another ten minutes before the beeping starts again. I run to disarm the thing again. I go back to sleep.

It beeps again.

After the third repetition of this song and dance, I’m convinced that the motion detector is sensing me downstairs and doesn’t like it. I retreat upstairs and sack out on the couch up there.

The mystery is resolved the next morning, when I sneak out the house again at my usual stupid-early hour. I disarm the system, open the door, put my stuff on the porch, and rearm the system for “Away.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Oh. I get it now. It uses the same sequence of beeps after arming the system–to let you know how long you have to escape the house–as it does when the alarm is about to go off. What genius thought this up? I’d been having an arm/disarm tug-of-war with my grandmother last night. Boy, I must have really confused her!

Sitting down on the porch to put my muddy shoes back on, my back to the closed front door, I hear the alarm reach the end of its sequence. It gives a perky little chirrup and shuts up. And I drive back to Slidell.

The way I figure, every possible combination of outcomes I could feasibly undergo has happened by now. From here on out, where paranoid electrons are concerned, I think things should get less eventful.

Wish me luck!

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