Things that go Beep

This is where the rot started

I’ve read that you can get a wrist gadget that will beep if someone gets too close.  It’s an aid to social distancing for the Covid age but really, do we need yet another source of beeping in our lives?

Everything beeps these days. 

My fridge beeps if I leave the door open too long.  My washing-machine beeps to tell me when it’s finished a load.  My car beeps if I don’t do up my seat-belt or if I leave the keys in the ignition. 

If I had a clothes dryer it would beep to tell me that the clothes were dry.  If I had a dishwasher it would beep to tell me the dishes were done.  I don’t have either because they are a waste of energy, and besides, your clothes smell much nicer after drying in fresh air and sunshine, which are free and, moreover, don’t beep.   

Alright alright! ShaddUUUUP!

Supermarket check-outs beep.  I’m told cameras beep, although God knows why.  Even thermometers beep when they hit the right spot.  Harrumph.  In my day it was good enough to squint at those tiny little red lines! 

It started when we replaced the alarm clock with the digital clock-radio to wake us up, but nowadays any old thing can do that job:  watches, phones, calculators…and I wouldn’t be surprised if ovens, fridges and TVs can do it too.  And they all have beeping timers to tell us when our eggs are boiled, our coffee is ready or our meat is roasted.   

Some things beep in the night, which can be a bit of a worry.  If I am woken by nocturnal beeping I usually fear the worst, even though my rational mind knows that both the fire alarm and the burglar alarm will emit unmistakeable ear-splitting shrieks in the event of fire or the intrusion of an axe-murderer. 

Nevertheless while the adrenalin keeps me awake I lie there canvassing the possibilities:  was that neighbours using remotes to unlock their cars?  did I set a wake-up alarm for some reason?  is one of my gadgets running low on battery power?   

That’s the likeliest possibility, and since I can’t fit them all in my bedside drawer every night I’m going to have to get out of bed and look for the damn thing.  I sure hope it’s not the fire alarm, because I’ll have to get up on a stepladder to turn the bugger off, if I can remember how to do that.  Otherwise I’ll wrench it out of its casing and shove it under a pile of pillows in another room. 

But there are worse things than household beeps….

There I was on the first fine day after the recent Big Wet enjoying the winter sunshine down by the Derwent.  The sky was blue, the river was sparkling, happy citizens were strolling or cycling up and down the bike path, rosellas and galahs were out feasting on bugs and worms flushed out of the sodden soil. 

Suddenly the peace of this idyllic scene is shattered by a horrible noise.  Over there: workmen digging up the road with an excavator at the old naval depot.  The excavator has an alarm that emits loud, piercing beeps every time the vehicle goes into reverse.  This happens every five to ten seconds as the beast plunges its teeth into the bitumen then backs up to dump its plunder aside.  These beeps are much louder than the feeble efforts of my household appliances and they go through my brain like aural needles. 

Yes, I know it’s a safety measure to alert workers to the danger of getting mangled, but there’s only a couple of blokes down there apart from the driver, surely they can use their eyes to steer clear?  It’s not as though the machine is making sudden erratic lunges at them.  Can’t they turn off the beeper while the excavator is operating in this predictable way?  

Nope, can’t be done.  OHS laws and all that.  So it was explained to me once by an excavator operator working near my home.  I’d begged him to please turn the beeper off as it was doing my head in and there was nobody around. 

It’s the same with reversing trucks and other heavy vehicles, which increasingly fill our streets and suburbs with this toxic noise to the apparent indifference of OHS laws.  Personally, I’d rather have peace and quiet and take my chances with the machines any day. 

This article was first published in The New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News in July 2021