Beep-Less Society? Not So Fast

Years ago, when pagers went out of style in favor of cell phones that play “Another one bites the dust,” I thought, “Yay! We’re finally done with the beeps.”

It took a tiny high-pitched pulsing sound penetrating the bedroom at 2 a.m. last week to remind me how wrong I was.

“Hallelujah! Thank you for letting me know that the smoke detector battery has died!” I did not say. And stumbled upstairs for quieter digs behind a quickly slammed door. It was not until the next morning that I felt slight gratitude for knowing – this time – where the beep was coming from.

Usually, the possibilities are endless. “Shhhh! Does anyone else hear that?” is the first sign of a mystery beep. Then the competition begins, with various players darting upstairs and down in search of a very faint sound.

“Dryer?”

“Water detectors under the sink?”

“Try the smoke detector in the back upstairs bedroom.”

“But it’s coming from under the floor.”

Veterans of the chase know the likely suspect lives down the stairs in the back corner: The Basement Watchdog. All innocent, stationed by the sump pump, TBW usually sits quietly like a miniature mastiff, ready to rescue a failing pump and save the basement from drowning. Quietly, that is, until the flashing lights and tiny beep announces that – once again – the battery is low on water.

“No problem,” I said the first time this happened, and dug around for the instruction book, which contained elaborate directions for unscrewing a couple of screws I could not find and filling some cylinders with distilled water I did not have. All while wearing safety goggles to protect my eyes from corrosive materials. Corrosive materials?

“Problem,” I said. And called Frank the handyman – my best problem-solver next to Google.

“I’ll watch you,” I said, standing back at a safe distance, “And next time do it myself.”

Of course, this has not happened. Each encounter with TBW reminds me of my late mother’s wisdom about not climbing on ladders or doing other dangerous things after a certain age. And so the beeping continues with every out-of-reach battery replacement and TBW refill until Frank arrives.

It is at least comforting to know that I am not alone in complicating my life with beeps. Some jet-setters are paying big bucks to add more. According to the SkyMall magazine stuffed in “the seat pocket in front of you” on a recent flight, I can have (for $247.99) a beeping pillbox with flashing lights that reminds me of every dose. For $299, a GPS tracker will give me real-time updates every three seconds of where someone’s vehicle is. And for a sentimental journey, I can have a voice-activated R2D2 in my living room ($199.95) dancing and beeping the night away.

With so many beeps already, I’ll probably pass on the extra gadgets. But I might reconsider if SkyMall started offering its cozy “Thundershirt” ($39.95) in fashionable women’s styles. Right now, they’re advertising it only for dogs afraid of loud noises, but I think it could work for beepers and possibly even battery corrosion.

I’ll keep checking SkyMall for updates. If a Thunder Wrap Dress appears in this year’s bold flower-power colors, I’ll be first in line.

Copyright 2012 Pat Snyder

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