Friday, February 26, 2010

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

I had a very useful lesson in problem solving this week. When I came home from Regina, there was a beeping noise in my apartment. I immediately suspected that it was the smoke detector. The building manager agreed with my analysis and dropped by the next day to replace it. Well, that didn’t solve the problem. I continued to have 5-minute episodes of beeping on and off, mostly at night.

Over the next two days, the building manager replaced the smoke detector three times. With no success. At that point, he got frustrated. He said the smoke detectors were not faulty and, as I was the only tenant who had this problem, and because I was the only tenant with birds, the answer was obvious: my budgies had learned to imitate the sound of the smoke detector beeping, and it was them that I was hearing.

Well, then I got mad because I knew it wasn’t my birds. Fortunately, at this stage I called on my brother for assistance, and he helped me to review the situation objectively. I conducted a mental inventory of other electronic devices in my apartment to see if any of them could be causing the problem. No. The next time it started beeping, I went out in the hallway to see if the sound could be coming from a neighbouring apartment. No.

There was one other possibility – a wired-in fire alarm directly across the hall from the smoke detector. Andrew and I removed both devices, and I had my first beep-free night this week. I have now replaced the smoke detector. If I still have no beeping, I’ll know that the problem is the battery in the fire alarm, which can be replaced, and the alarm restored to its original position.

The moral of the story is: don’t jump to conclusions. Try to objectively consider and then eliminate all the options. The first solution that jumps to mind may not be the correct one. And simply repeating the same solution over and over again won’t make it work any better.

In addition, beware faulty logic. I may be the only tenant with birds, but I am probably also the only vegetarian tenant. Neither factor was relevant in this situation.

Update: The fire alarm just started beeping so I am off to the store to buy a replacement battery. Mystery solved!

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