Things that go ‘Beep’


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay discusses all of her things that go "beep."
Janice Lindsay

A traditional prayer from the British Isles begs, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties/And things that go bump in the night/Good Lord, deliver us.”

Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties are scarce these days. I would be content to be delivered from things that go “beep.”

Our lives are full of mechanical creatures that beep. Some buzz, gack, or ding, but they all fulfill the basic principle of beepism: to get your attention by being annoying, though they are sincerely trying to help and sometimes they do.

Long ago, on one of his daily walks, my husband found a man’s watch. It was battered, but it kept correct time. There was no way to locate the owner who, whether he had lost the watch or tossed it, had thoughtlessly failed to include the owner’s manual. Every day, at 7:31 a.m. and 7:31 p.m., for ten years until it finally died, the watch cheerfully invaded our quiet home with a steady beep.

My oven speaks two beep types: one beepish beep as I push each button; a dingish beep when it reaches the chosen temperature.

My microwave speaks three beeps. First, a classic single beep as I push each button. Second, a beep trio when the time is up. Then, if I don’t open the door in what it considers a timely fashion, a tiny polite “bip” says, “Excuse me, dear, don’t forget me.” This is more considerate than my previous microwave that went “Baaap!” as if to say, “Hey! You! Can’t you remember anything?”

My dryer speaks no beeps until the clothes are getting ready to be almost dry, then it goes, “Gack!” In the next few minutes, it gacks a couple of times to tell me I may remove the clothes. Then, mysteriously, when the cycle is totally done and dryer stops, it says…. Nothing.

My cell phone beeps when a text message arrives. If I don’t read the message in what it considers a timely fashion, it beeps again. I don’t like to turn it off, in case of actual emergencies. The phone cannot (yet) differentiate between a trivial message and a serious one, nor assess whether I’m awake or asleep.

My printer beeps when the power is interrupted. My computer beeps when an email arrives. My refrigerator beeps if I don’t close the door in what it considers a timely fashion. 

After our house was burglarized, we installed (admittedly too late) a security system. It beeps gently each time I press a button to set it. But when it’s set and I come in the house, it screams loud hysterical beepbeepbeeps. If I don’t reset it in what it considers a timely fashion, it starts the siren, apparently in an attempt to deafen the intruder who, it assumes, I am.

A fairly common beeping challenge is smoke detectors. According to the manual, they “chirp” when they need new batteries. The chirp is simply a beep with a cute name. It’s not cute when it wakes you in the middle of the night. I’ve been known to get up from my cozy bed to disconnect a chirping detector and bury it and its chirp somewhere in the garage until I could change the battery. One such detector, after receiving a new battery, issued random screaming beeps that could be heard in Canada. We replaced that one.

I remember one September night when we had a patch of unusually warm weather that brought out a confused spring peeper or two. I was startled awake by their “Peep! Peep! Peep!” In my sleepy haze, I panicked: Which appliance was talking to me?

Even Mother Nature beeps.



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