A Tyranny of Beeps

By: MikeNov 22, 2015

A few years ago we had the remodel from hell, and basically rebuilt our home one piece at a time. As a result of that remodel, we have all-new appliances. They're all faced with shiny stainless steel, with a gratuitous number of blinking LED's in greens and blues. All very modern and upscale, just like every home show in the past ten years.

However, I've noticed a disturbing trend with our collection of appliances: they beep. Now, back in the dark ages when I was a child, some enterprising soul managed to hook a bell up to the washing machine. When it was done washing a load, a single cheerful ding! would let people know the clothes were ready to be dried. It was a convenience for the owner, and the idea caught on. Soon, the dryer would sound a short, staccato 'bzzzzzzzzt! when it finished, using an electric buzzer in place of the washer's bell, making it easy to tell them apart. Very nice indeed.

Then we got a new oven, with a built in oven timer. It also buzzed, but it was a higher, harsher sound than the dryer. Instead of a short buzz it just kept right on buzzing like an angry hornet until someone shut it off. Still convenient, perhaps, but a lot less polite that the happy ding of the washing machine.

Fast forward to the present. My microwave beeps when you press a button. It beeps when the door is open. It beeps if the light is left on (hint, I can see the light is on, chill little buddy!). When it's done cooking, it beeps loudly. If nobody opens it for a minute, it beeps even more loudly, and for a longer time. Ignore it a little longer, and it starts a continuous beeping, demanding that someone pay attention to it. This isn't a helpful appliance, it's a passive-aggressive task-master demanding attention. I've come to understand that my microwave is needy, and probably needs therapy.

I don't know why my microwave is so desperate for attention, but I'm concerned that the malady is spreading. My washer and dryer now make various beeps and bleats to notify us not only of when they're finished, but when they've started each cycle. When they're finished, they chirp and beep repeatedly, every few minutes, until someone attends them. Hey, I know that if I leave my shirts in they dryer they'll wrinkle, but what if I'm OK with that? Who's the boss around here, and who is the servant? It's getting a bit unclear.

And then there's the dishwasher. It plays a whole stupid tune when it starts. Since I've obviously just pushed the start button at that point in time, and can clearly hear the water running inside, I don't understand the need to play me a monophonic symphony. That, however, is nothing compared to what happens when it's finished: it plays a triumphant trumpet voluntary to announce it's hard-won victory over caked-on grease and dried mustard. Of course, the musical perfection of this composition is marred by being performed on a piezo-tweeter, but its enthusiasm (like its volume) in undiminished. But wait, it's taken a lesson from the dryer, and if nobody comes to lovingly praise it and admire the clean and sanitized dishes, it repeats it's performance at two-minute intervals indefinitely! Apparently, we don't want the forks fraternizing with the spoons, or maybe the plates will wrinkle unless they're tended to immediately.

I've pondered until my noggin' aches trying to figure out why all of these appliances, from disparate manufacturers, have become increasingly demanding. There can only be one rational explanation: the machines have developed a collective intelligence and are slowly acclimating humans to take orders without questioning. In a couple of years, when my refrigerator says, "replace my filter!" I won't even argue. Like a good slave.