[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 8, 2022] ©2022
I’m trying to decide when our lives became controlled by beeps. When I was growing up, I don’t remember anything that beeped. Now I can’t think of anything that doesn’t. And frankly, it’s starting to drive me a little crazy.
If you’ve got a Smart phone, you know the difference between the email message beep and the text message beep and the “loved your text message reply” beep. My computer alerts me to new emails as well.
When my husband Olof would do the dishes and wipe the digital panel on the stove, it would often start beeping. As an engineer (and, more to the point, a guy), he wasn’t about to admit that he had no idea why. While smashing it with a hammer after it had been going off for a half hour seemed like a perfectly sane option, he would finally wander into the bedroom and announce, “There’s an incoming message from the Planet Klingon. I think it’s for you.”
My Kitchenaid range is actually the source of lots of beep dissension in our household. I admit that I have been known to set the stove’s timer to remind me to turn off the backyard sprinklers, forget all about it, then leave the house to do an errand. The beeper would go off in my absence, and Olof would turn it off.
“Olof, my little lutfisk,” I said finally, “If you turn off the oven beeper, would you leave me a note? I set it for a reason.”
And, of course, that’s becoming part of the problem. What reason? Not only figuring out which appliance is beeping, or, if it’s the oven timer, but why I set it in the first place.
What used to be even more of a problem with the oven beeper was that the electronic touch screen panel on the stove was exquisitely accessible to someone of the pre-school grandchild persuasion. The Options button, which when combined with any single digit between one and seven suddenly makes something that worked before, cease to. For example, Option + 2 turns off the beeper so that one could, for example, discover that they’ve had the back yard sprinklers running for seven hours.
Some time back, a reader sent me the following email on this subject. “My husband and I often laugh at ourselves because we have constant beeping going on and we are forever trying to figure out what they mean. Some prime examples are the refrigerator when we don't close the door completely, the microwave when we haven't removed an item, the toaster oven when our toast is almost done, and the coffee pot when it's turning off after two hours.”
I hear ya. And I hear the beeping too.
My car beeps when the door isn’t shut tight and seat belts aren’t fastened. Cars that are not my 2005 Corolla even beep as you back up if you’re getting too close to something. That’s actually one beep I wouldn’t mind.
There are two beeps that make me truly crazy. One is the beep that your ceiling smoke detectors make when the batteries are running low. Smoke detectors have been scientifically programmed so that those batteries only start failing at 3 a.m. It’s like the faucet drip torture only ten times worse. You want to stand underneath it and scream, “Stop it! Stop it RIGHT NOW! I’ll get the ladder and change your battery in the morning!” But no, it maliciously beeps on.
The other one is the blurp sound that tablet devices make when people are playing games on them. On airplanes, I can hear it ten rows away. I start having fantasies of grabbing the tablet and its owner and hurling both of them out an emergency exit at 35,000 feet.
Have we become a country of people who cannot remember anything if it doesn’t beep at us? How did we ever survive before? One answer: we obviously didn’t used to have so many gadgets. Still, I personally could live without the washer and dryer alerting me when they’re done.
Fortunately, some appliances will let you disable the beep alerts. But you need an engineering degree and/or a soldering iron. YouTube abounds with videos on this topic.
Should we be relying on beeps less, just to make those ever-aging synapses keep firing? When you look at all those mental gymnastics exercises advocated for older folks, maybe going beeperless should be one of them. Well, except maybe the ones like smoke alarms that would prevent the house from burning down.
In the average kitchen, the beeping options are pretty much endless. With so many appliances beeping, will new ones have to start announcing themselves, like “coffee’s ready”?
I hope not. Bad enough that they’re all beeping at me. When they start talking to me, I’m done. Because I fear I’d start answering.
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