Lately, I’ve taken to arguing with my microwave. And I think the microwave is winning.
The microwave is just one of many things that seems to want to beep at me, and I’d sort of like it to just be quiet. It beeps when it’s done heating something up, but then, if you don’t open the door right away, it beeps at you some more until you do.
Sometimes, I just don’t have a hand free to check it right away. Or maybe the instructions on whatever is being heated specifically say to let it sit a minute. Whatever the case, I have found myself yelling at the appliance, “I heard you the first time!”
Its response: “BEEEEP.”
To be sure, the microwave isn’t the only thing that beeps at me, and I’d like them all to stop. The coffeemaker beeps when it finishes brewing. The oven beeps when it is fully preheated. The washer and dryer beep when they’re done with my clothes. The car beeps if you don’t buckle your seat belt right away, or don’t turn the headlights off as soon as you stop the engine.
At work, I have a computer that controls the workflow for pages being sent to the pressroom. While it doesn’t beep, it does have a messaging system that constantly lets me know “You’ve got mail,” and it doesn’t stop until I log on to see what the message is — usually it’s just letting me know that it did what it’s supposed to do.
I’ve had a smartphone for less than a year, and at first, it was fun to get alerts for social media posts — for about 15 minutes. (Full disclosure: for my text message alerts, I have R2-D2 sounds, but even that gets a little annoying when I’m getting a series of messages from particularly proficient texters.) And when, just recently, I activated my email on that smartphone, the first thing I did was turn off the alert tone. The vibrate setting was turned off shortly thereafter; a large part of my email consists of junk, and I just don’t need to know every time somebody’s spokesperson feels the need to send out a press release. It can wait until I get back to the office.
I sometimes wonder how the checkout clerks at the grocery store stay sane; the constant beeping of the scanner and the credit card swipe machine would drive me nuts.
And I have friends that who have fancy watches they wear while exercising that beep at them if they’re not going the right pace or their heart rate is too high or too low or who knows what else. They keep trying to convince that I should get one too, and then I couple upload my data and analyze my workout. Quite frankly, I ride my bicycle to get away from electronics that want to tell me what to do.
Of course, there are some useful beeps. For example, if the smoke detector starts chirping, there’s usually a good reason — most frequently, it’s that the battery needs to be replaced. I just wonder why, if we have the technology to include things like a carbon monoxide detector and 10-year battery in these devices, engineers can’t also include a light sensor so that, when the battery gets low, the chirping would happen during daylight hours and not wake me up at 3 a.m.
I did try turning off the beeps on the microwave, but I found that I wanted something to indicate that it was done for those times when you put something in for several minutes, then go and do something else while it cooks. The only options I could find were all the beeps or none of the beeps; as I said, the microwave seems to be getting the better of me in this debate.
I can see why people really like the new voice activated “personal digital assistant” applications and devices; I haven’t figured out what to use them for, other than to “call home” from my cell phone, but they all seem to be very polite when going fielding requests — and they don’t beep at you when they’re done. The coffeemaker could certainly learn a thing or two.
Now if you’ll excuse, the microwave is talking back to me again and we need to have a serious discussion about why it can’t be more like the toaster. Now there’s an appliance that understands me.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at email@example.com.