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Sarah Simpson column: Incessant beeping a part of modern life



Growing up, hearing that sound meant an important character on my mom’s soap opera — All My Children with the soap legend Susan Lucci playing the role of the indomitable Erica Kane, if you wondered — was in the hospital and in very bad shape.

That was the only beep of my childhood that I can remember.

When the dishwasher was done, it just stopped. When the washing machine stopped, it just turned off. You had to keep an eye on it of you’d get musty clothes. When the dryer stopped you’d better be nearby or you wouldn’t hear it turn off and then you’d be folding wrinkly clothes.

I’m not even sure there was a timer on the stove; not one that we used anyway.

When I was a kid we had egg timers that stuck to the fridge with a magnet and we had to twist them one full rotation before you set the time. Kind of like a combination lock.

It was those same timers that my mom would turn on when we were taking too long to eat dinner.

“Finish before the timer or else!”

Admittedly they ticked, but they never beeped and admittedly, it was a bit of an empty threat. Or so I remember. When the timer was done it would ring a little bell like a fire alarm. No beeps required.

Life must have been so much quieter back then.

The only beeps I remember are the ones that came from big trucks that were backing up and even then, I feel like that only became a thing later on in my youth. I could be wrong though.

As I grew into a teen and began working at the McDonald’s in my hometown, the beeps began. Everything beeped. The fry machine was the only one I really had to mind. The rest of the beeps came from the kitchen in the back and I worked in the front end so I learned to ignore them.

Unbeknownst to me back then, that experience did prime me for what was to come.

Today our lives rely on beeps. So many beeps.

The other night my Instant Pot beeped six times to tell me it was done. SIX TIMES!

I felt like my mother when we used to pester her.

“I heard you the first time!” she’d say.

I mimicked the Instant Pot noise in a bit of an annoyed mocking tone that I guess my daughter didn’t quite pick up on because she said: “Mom! Stop with the beeping already. As if there aren’t enough beeps around here!”

She couldn’t be more correct. I didn’t realize she was annoyed by all the beeps, too. She started noticing them when the fire alarm kept warning us every few minutes in the middle of the night that the battery was dead. Ever since, she hears them everywhere.

(I do acknowledge these are First World problems so don’t come for our heads.)

The microwave beeps when it’s done. Not once. Not twice. Three times.

The washing machine sings a tune when it’s done, as does the clothes dryer. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the beeps.

We recently had to replace our dishwasher so it now sings as well, though the one before it beeped.

Lately the bane of my existence has been our fridge. For some reason it’s stuck on “set temperature” so every time we open the door it resets the temperature to one degree higher. Naturally, every time it does that, it beeps. And, of course, when we turn it back down, it beeps every time we press a button.

What’s more, if we leave the fridge open by accident, it beeps until we close it — a handy feature I will admit. In the olden days we would have learned that we’d left the door open when our juice was room temperature and water poured out when you opened the freezer because everything had thawed.

The worst part is, now that we’ve notice the incessant beeping everywhere around us, we can’t help but to keep noticing it. It’s like buying a new red car and then driving across town and seeing the exact same colour and model of car three times. You just can’t avoid it.

Of course we’ll be OK. It’s an annoyance of these modern times that we’re blessed to have. You know what they say, It’s better to have beeped and annoyed you, than to never have beeped at all…

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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