Inklings: Things that go beep in the night
By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
The ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties are still a little scary. But these days, those things that go bump in the night have been replaced by things that go “Beep.”
I am assailed on all sides by mechanical objects beeping at me.
Some of the beeps sound a little bit more like “Ding,” but they all operate under the basic principle of beepism: to get your attention by being annoying though they are sincerely only trying to help.
Long ago, on one of my husband’s daily walks, he found a men’s watch. It was a bit battered but since it was telling the correct time, he brought it home. Whoever lost the watch, or tossed it, didn’t include the instruction manual, so he never did figure out how to set it or unset it. For 10 years, the watch kept perfect time, and every day, at 7:31 a.m. and 7:31 p.m., it faithfully and cheerfully invaded the silence with a steady beep.
It was one of the early, and burgeoning, number of appliances that now fill our house with denizens of beepdom.
My kitchen timer beeps, one beep per button when I set it, a rapid sequence of beeps when the time is up.
My microwave does the same but in a slightly different tone.
My oven has four kinds of beeps: one beepish beep when I push its buttons; another, single, dingish beep when the time’s almost up; a repeating, leisurely series of dingish beeps when the time is really up; and a faster, hysterical series if I’ve made a heinous mistake such as pushing “6-0” for minutes when I should have hit “1-0-0” for an hour.
My dryer says “Gack!” when clothes are almost dry, but it beeps when the clothes are completely dry. This beep veers toward the dingish vocabulary. It sounds almost like the ding my computer makes when a new e-mail arrives.
The surge protector for my computer beeps whenever something electrical happens that doesn’t quite suit its fancy.
My copy machine’s buttons beep. The machine beeps rapidly if I make a programming error.
After our house was burglarized, we decided to install a security system. One beep type sounds for button-pushing when you set it, another sounds when you come in the house to remind you to unset it.
Our most recent beeping challenge has been a smoke detector. According to the manual, the detectors “chirp” when they need new batteries. That chirp is only a beep with a cute name, but it’s not cute when it wakes you in the middle of the night. This particular smoke detector, located above the bed, seemed rather touchy. Perhaps a spider had strolled through its innards. After the middle-of-the-night “chirping,” and after receiving a new battery, it issued random screaming beeps that could be heard in Canada. It has since been replaced.
I haven’t even counted all the reasons my car has for beeping at me.
So many beeps! I must learn a whole new, beepish vocabulary. Who is beeping? And why?
Last week, we had a patch of humid summer weather that brought out a stray spring peeper or two. In the middle of the night, I was startled awake by their “Peep! Peep! Peep!” In my sleepy haze, I panicked: Which appliance was talking to me?
Even Mother Nature beeps.
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