January 22, 2020

At the Sound of the Beep

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

Every electronic device in this house beeps.

I just hate that.

The smoke alarm over our back stairs beeps whenever its battery gets low.  Of course that battery only runs down between 2:00 and 3:30 in the morning.  Normally that would be the night when I absolutely need my sleep the most.  In vain I struggle to crawl back into slumber, unsure what woke me.

‘Bee-ee-eep’ sounds again, an anemic, feeble and expiring sound.  The sort that does not permit sleep.

“What the …!”  Off come the covers.  My bare feet hit the icy floor.  I spend the next half-hour trying to discover which of the numerous electronic gadgets in this house sounded off.  It always takes that long because the be-ee-eeps are intermittent.   Plus whatever did it knows that when I find it, I’m gonna kill it and put it out of my misery.

Of course when I eventually do make it back to bed, I don’t fall asleep again. N

Not that night.

Now obviously we need a smoke alarm.  Every home should have one.  But when there’s no fire, why does it have to beep?  We finally installed a hard-wired smoke detector specifically to avoid that noise.  But if the battery-operated variety was the only thing that sounded off in the small hours of the morning, perhaps I could live with it.  Perhaps.

It isn’t.

My wife’s cell phone beeps whenever, wherever, it receives a text message.
Okay.  Fine.  For goodness’ sake, does it have to keep on beeping?  It’s just a stupid text message.  If it were an emergency, they’d call you.  If you didn’t answer, it would stop ringing.  But in the world of little, low beeps, they keep sounding.

I cannot figure out why.

We can’t start the dishwasher when we go upstairs to bed each night.  Sure, that’s the logical time to start it.  That would insure that all the day’s dishes are included in the wash.  But the dishwasher beeps when it’s finished.

Yes, it keeps right on beeping until it’s shut off.  Do you want to get out of bed, go downstairs and shut off the dishwasher every night at 11:30?

I don’t either.

The sad fact is that this short litany only scratches the surface.  The list of things that go beep in the night is much longer.  The battery backup for this computer beeps whenever the power goes out.  My.  Isn’t that convenient.

The digital clock on my bureau flashes for the same reason.  Like I’m really going to sleep through that plus the battery alarm.

The microwave beeps when the timer stops.  Yes.  It keeps on beeping, too, until you shut the thing off.

The true horror of all these modern electronic gadgets was brought home to me recently.  I was looking through a catalog.  We must receive hundreds a year.  Advertized was a battery-operated, “Natural Sounds Synthesizer.”  It was marketed as a sleep-aid and featured, “Five of nature’s most soothing sounds for natural, restful and refreshing sleep every night.  Adjustable volume.  Select from surf, running water, birdsongs, spring peepers and heartbeat.”

Incredulity crept over me as I read.  Presumably it’s battery-operated so that you can take it with you camping.  But it was the final line that was the killer.

“Low battery alert included.”