There’s a cosmic law, which I haven’t quite figured out, that says the most annoying problems occur at the worst possible time.

For example, on New Year’s Eve our furnace always goes on the fritz, to use a term I learned from my father. It must have an internal clock that says, “Dec. 31, 11 p.m. — Hmmmm, time to shut down and take a break before the New Year begins!” How does that hunk of metal and ductwork know it’s New Year’s Eve, and a cold one at that?

If not the furnace, it’s the hot water heater, which seems to prefer breaking down when I’m in the shower getting ready for some monumental social event that my wife is forcing me to attend. Slowly but surely, the hot water begins to turn to lukewarm water and then to cold water and then to “What the *%!@#* is going on!” water.

Do you know how hard it is to get a repairman on New Year’s Eve? And while I’m on the topic, do you have any idea how many times I’ve been in the hospital emergency room on Christmas Eve with a) my mother b) my wife c) my kids d) my dog e) myself?

Through personal experience, I’ve also learned smoke alarms are programmed to go kaput at the worst possible time, usually in the dead of night so that you get woken up by the creepy beeping.

Last week, while I was in a deep REM sleep, dreaming about winning Power Ball, I heard that familiar “Beep...Beep...Beep”  just as I was about to cash the $250-million check. It wasn’t Christmas Eve, but it was a full moon, which makes people get really crazy, along with pets, machinery and technology.

If my wife or I didn’t get out of bed to change the battery, it would beep all night, so we started our usual negotiations.

“You go.”

“No, you go.”

“Noooo, you go!”

“Send the dog.”

But the dog couldn’t go because she suffers a complete meltdown whenever a smoke alarm starts beeping. She’s not afraid of the mailman or the police chief, but she hides and cringes in fear over the smoke alarm. Once she even dashed out the door into knee-deep snow and started running away until I chased her and brought her back.

I’m not very good with numbers, which is why I don’t balance the checkbook; however, I estimate smoke alarms are prone to succumb at night 80 percent of the time ... usually while I’m in bed.

What makes it excruciating is that I can never locate the sound, probably because we have a dozen or more smoke alarms all over the house in inconvenient places, including the top of the bookcases, on the refrigerator, behind photos, here, there and everywhere. As a result, I can never determine which room, which floor, which galaxy the beeping is coming from.

(The only worse experience is having a fly buzzing around the bedroom at night. As soon as you turn on the light, it crawls behind a picture or takes refuge under the lamp shade and makes faces at you.)

I turned to my wife and begged, “Could you get this one please? I have to wake up at 4:30 to go to work. Have some sympathy!”

“Sure,” she said, eager to do a good deed for a husband who doesn’t deserve good deeds. (I don’t believe that, but it seemed like a clever thing to say considering the circumstances.) Anyway, she went into the other room and disabled the alarm. Back to bed. A minute later, another beep.

“I guess you picked the wrong one.”

She grumbled, got up again, stood in the hall and tried to locate the sound.

“It’s downstairs,” she said. “No, it’s the bathroom,” I said. “No, it’s the guest room,” she said.

She stood there for a few minutes and waited. No beeping. Is there some artificial intelligence chip they put into smoke alarms so they know when you’re listening and go quiet?

“Let’s take the batteries out of them all,” I said,” “and replace them tomorrow.”

“We don’t have any batteries to replace them with.”

Beep. She looked up the hall and down the hall but couldn’t figure it out. Meanwhile, the poor dog was cowering under the bed. I’m convinced she knew where the beep was coming from but was too scared to tell us.

“Could you shut the door so I can sleep?”

“Not on your life. If I’m up, you’re up too.”

So much for a sympathetic spouse. Maybe I should have joined the dog under the bed.

Contact Joe Pisani at