Electric Appliances' Annoying Beeping Fills Columnist John Kelly's Head

Microwave ovens and smoke detectors are among the common appliances that emit beeping sounds. And many gadgets that don't beep have other irritating ways of grabbing us by the ears and demanding our attention.
Microwave ovens and smoke detectors are among the common appliances that emit beeping sounds. And many gadgets that don't beep have other irritating ways of grabbing us by the ears and demanding our attention. (N/a - N/a)

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By John Kelly
Monday, March 2, 2009

I hear America beeping.

Beep, says my cellphone when it gets a message.

Beep, says my microwave oven when my pasta is warmed up.

Sometimes I long for a natural sound: a bird singing, a dog barking, children laughing, anything to drown out the maddening beeps that have become the soundtrack to modern life.

My cellphone? It isn't enough that its ring tone offerings seem to stretch from "annoying" to "extremely annoying." It also has to beep whenever someone texts me.

The microwave? A bell rings when it's finished heating my food. But is that enough? No. If I don't rush to it right away, it starts beeping, like an impatient child tugging at my sleeve. I know there's food in the microwave. I'm the one who put it there.

The regular oven, perhaps because it's jealous of the microwave oven (or in solidarity; who can really tell with household appliances?) chooses to beep whenever a preset temperature is reached. "Hey!" the beep seems to say. "Don't forget you want to shove a pie in my kisser!"

Every single hair-curling, -crimping and -straightening tool employed by the women in my household beeps. Getting ready to go out sounds like the checkout lane at the supermarket.

The smoke detector is the worst offender. When its batteries are in need of replacement, it emits a series of chirps. Short and sharp, they are the last gasps of a scared and dying man. A parrot-owning friend of mine returned home to find his African grey mimicking that very sound. The smoke detector in his house had died and spent all day futilely sounding these auditory warnings. The parrot has added that most annoying of sounds to its repertoire.

The things that don't beep buzz. And if, for some reason, beeping and buzzing is beneath them, they clear their throats and perform a symphony. Whenever I turn on my 40-inch, 1080p, high-definition television with three HDMI inputs and a 30,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio it performs an aria: La di da di dum. Salutations! Here I am! Same thing when I turn it off: La di da di dum. Goodbye, kind sir! Until the next time!

I think I'd pay more for a TV not so full of itself.

The sad thing is, someone wrote that little ditty. Some composer -- a childhood piano or violin prodigy, no doubt; pampered star of family gatherings; coveted scholarship to Juilliard -- had to obsess about precisely which two-second blast of music would best signify that a flat-screen TV or laptop computer was, in fact, on. And once he created his greatest work -- certainly his most heard one -- he probably waited for the oven to beep so he could stick his head in it.


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