“Can anything worse possibly happen to a car?” Rick’s voice cracks with stress as he tells me about it.
“My door is CLOSED! I’ve slammed it. I’ve eased it shut. I’ve had other people close it. Look. There is no gap around the door seal. When I push on it, it doesn’t wiggle.
WHY WON’T THAT STUPID BEEP STOP??”
He opens his car door to demonstrate. Slams it. The warning beep just goes on and on.
The sound is as familiar as a heartbeat. I don’t think a day of life could be lived without that noise being heard at least once. In our kitchens and cars. Our workplaces and where we shop. Everywhere has the beep.
Look around your home. If you have a smoke alarm, you have a beep. I’m not talking about the loud warning noise it emits in the event of fire. That’s a good sound, and much too loud to qualify.
I’m talking about the little beep you will hear some night—say, about 3AM. It chirps out once every ten seconds or so and the first time it happens, you’ll wonder if you really heard something or if you were dreaming.
Listen. There it goes again. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9…there.
Don’t try to ignore it. It can’t be done. Sooner or later, you’ll climb from your bed and start slinking through the house, tiptoeing so you can hear it when it goes off again. Head cocked, the “good ear” toward the chirp.
How truly insane you must look in your jammies as you stare at THIS LED light and THAT flashing number, hoping to be in the right place at the right time.
Finally, you find the source. “Oh. The battery needs to be replaced. Okay…” The saddest thing about the entire episode is your vacant smile. You’re actually proud of your early-morning detective work.
This is one of many beeps we’ve learned to obey. Like Pavlov’s reward-seeking dog, we hear and respond to the commands of our machinery with slobbering haste.
We hurry, because the electronically emitted note is annoying enough to make even mild-mannered men yank cords from sockets in maniacal fervor.
Remember how we grinned the first time our new-fangled microwaves beeped to let us know our popcorn was ready? How convenient, we thought. No watching the clock. No memorizing minutes.
DING. DING. DING. Done.
That was the start of a cacophony of piercing cues that scream, “HEY, STUPID!” into our ears all day long. Written instructions were tossed away with the box, and our ears took over the task of knowing when to do things.
Low battery. Wrong button. Right button. What about that seat belt, hmmm? Time to get up. Close that door. Your food is ready. Don’t forget your keys.
TELEPHONE. There is an error somewhere on your computer. Wait—your headlights are still on. You have a message.
The beep goes on. And on. And on.
From the cradle to the grave, the beeps travel through life with us, never stopping until the hospital heartbeat monitors count our final blips with precise pings. We are victims of our own technology.
“I hate to spend the money to have it looked at…” Poor Rick is tapping the steering wheel in time to the beeping of his faulty door sensor. His head is nodding—just a tiny bit—and I think I see his eyelashes quivering out distress signals to passersby. He’s ready to snap.
It could happen to any of us. One day, when we think everything is charged and plugged in, correctly set and fully operational, a dysfunctional beep will drill its way into our fragile lifestyles and—like Poe and his floorboards—we’ll reveal our insanity while tearing our houses apart, machine by machine—and screaming loudly…
“Here. It is the beeping of my hideous ____!”
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