14 March 2012

Frogs 3; Humans, 1

I have earlier reported on the influx of small orange/brown frogs in the downstairs powder room. I still do not know for sure why they hang there. (Btw, I mean they literally "hang there."  Remember those gummy toy frogs you threw at the wall and they stuck there, gravity to the contrary notwithstanding?  Our big-eyed  two inch long critters could be the model for that toy.)  In any event, the evidence (testimonial and otherwise) is piling up that the frogs are there because the frogs are everywhere.  Apparently they hitchhiked to St. Barths several years ago on some imported plant material, and are taking over.  Good news for the garden snakes, bad news for mosquito larvae. I guess there are no snakes in our bathroom, so we trade off mosquitoes for frogs.  Not such a bad deal.  

We warn our guests that when they use that toilet they may have company in there and the company they may encounter, as far we know, poses no physical threat beyond self induced surprise-generated aiming errors.  However, a comprehensive warning does not always do the trick.  Just the other day we heard a long scream.   Stephanie, who thinks the notion of cute little orange frogs is just adorable, had a different view when the little darling hanging on the wall jumped down the front of her loose blouse and she had to do a vigorous Victor Cruz salsa to get him out of there. But we are making progress: five-year-old Audrey, after an original scream, adapted and was willing to risk frogs to use that bathroom, though three-year-old Nick is not quite there yet.

But lately the frogs have upped the ante: One recent morning, Pinks and I were awakened at 4 a.m. by the wail of a smoke alarm.  But even in groping through the mental fog of disturbed rem sleep, I was alert enough to ask  “Why is the smoke alarm screaming at us when we do not have a smoke alarm?”  My Reason For Living's contribution to this scientific inquiry was to pull the pillow over head and mutter, "I dunno. Fix it."   Ahh, romance in the tropics.

It took a few seconds for me to recognize that the non-smoke alarm siren originated not in our bedroom, but in a three-sided shed attached to the downstairs bedroom. A puzzle, inasmuch as, like our bedroom, the shed too lacks  a smoke alarm. Ah, but I do keep the portable pool alarm lying on a shelf in that space.

While the local building code does not require smoke alarms, it does require pool alarms, be they permanently installed or portable devices.  They all work on the same principle: hanging from a bracket at poolside, a tube dips four inches below the surface of the water.  Inside the tube is a float. When the pool surface is calm, the float does what floats do, it floats.  No problemo.  But when the surface of the water is choppy, the float bobs up and down, and this sets off an alarm powered by stepped down house current in a permanent device, or a 9 volt battery in a portable one.

As a practical matter, it is an almost useless device.  It must be turned off (or, in the case of a portable one, removed from the pool) when people are splashing about in the pool, and turned back on/reinstalled when they are not, except i)when it is too windy, ii) the pool pump creates too big a ripple in the pool surface,  iii) Fido likes to jump into the pool, or iv) whatever. Thus the device's only value arises in the rare circumstance when none of the above is applicable, the device is alarmed, and a non-swimmer infant child falls or jumps into the pool and makes a big enough splash to aggravate the float, while adults are there to hear the alarm but did not see the kid go in the water. That ever happen?  I am sure it did. But c’mon.  Anyway, this is a device beloved to its manufacturers and their sales agents, along with insurance company lawyers looking for a way to help their clients avoid paying off on pool-accident policies. “Your Honor, we would be happy to pay for the loss of little Timmy, but for the fact that the Smiths neglected to turn the alarm back on … .”  Gag.  

How did the manufacturers and insurers win this piece of useless legislation?  The usual way, I guess.  (What does St. Barths and the Town of East Hampton have in common? Yup, you guessed it.)

Bottom line, I know of no person who has ever turned this device on. 

Back to  my story:  So when I staggered into the pitch black shed with my penlight at 4 ayem, lifted the device from the shelf, and pushed alarm kill-switch, three things happened almost simultaneously; i) the wailing stopped,  ii) two small frogs leaped out of the open end of the device, and iii) I cut my toe on the wire shelf leg when I did my WTF! startled leap.  Whatever those frogs were doing in my pool alarm, their activity apparently actuated the float and engaged the alarm.  Hmm. Now that I think of it, if  I were startled, what about them? Talk about interruptus!

Live and learn:  I still cannot figure out how to keep the frogs out of the bathroom, but I am smart enough to pull the battery on the unused pool alarm.  Small victories count too, y’know.

A bientot.