Monday, April 02, 2007

This is your oven speaking...

Did you ever stop to think about how many of our household appliances and gadgets today talk to us in beeps, buzzes, dings, and dongs? A lot, in case you have never stopped to think about how many.

Thanks to all these signals, we know when the pizza is done, when the coffee is brewed, when the clothes are dry, when someone is at the door, when someone is calling us on the phone, and when it is time to get up in the morning. The problem with all of these "talking" appliances is that many of them sound alike.

Unless you have trained your ear to tell the difference between the beep of the dryer, the beep of the coffee maker, and the beep of the oven timer, you can get confused like my husband does constantly. "Something is beeping in the kitchen." He'll call out to me if I am in another room. Or he might ask, "What's that buzzing sound?"

Even though I have a well-trained ear when it comes to our appliances, I found myself in a state of confusion one morning about a month ago when things started beeping. That particular morning our collie Max decided he wanted to get me up early so that he could go outside. Half in and half out of sleep, I slipped into some jeans, threw on a hooded sweatshirt with one of those front pockets for your hands, and I slid into my sneakers. Then I grabbed my handset phone, tucked it in the pocket of my sweatshirt and I headed downstairs. In my rush, I neglected to shut off the alarm by my bedside which was scheduled to go off in another 30 minutes or so.

After a few yawns and some serious head scratching, I began my morning ritual. Put on a pot of coffee. Started the oatmeal. Checked my emails. Let the dog back in. Drank my first cup of coffee. It was during my second cup of coffee that a faint "beep-beep-beep" sound caught my attention. It was coming from upstairs. "Oh, my alarm clock!" I said to myself. "I forgot to shut it off."

The dog and I hustled up the steps as fast as we could. I didn't want my alarm to wake my husband who was sleeping in another bedroom close to mine. We sleep in separate bedrooms these days due to our snoring problems. We manage to keep each other awake when we try to sleep in the same room. Such is life at our age.

In order to shut off my alarm I had to bend down so that I could see where the little buttons are located. They're so small. Why do they make these buttons so small? I managed to shut it off, and, thinking everything was okay, I headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I was in the midst of brushing when all of a sudden I noticed this faint "beep-beep-beep" sound coming from somewhere. I didn't know where. Was it my alarm clock again, I asked myself. I double checked and, sure enough, it was off.

"Where in the heck is that coming from!" I said to my dog Max who seemed to understand but couldn't give me an answer. "And what in the heck is it?" Max's ears perked for a moment as if to tell me he was thinking too. Is it another alarm clock, I asked myself. The sump pump maybe? A smoke detector? Some peculiar contraption my husband bought and didn't tell me about?

We began our hunt for the phantom appliance/gadget/contraption thingie that was going "beep-beep-beep." I went from room to room, upstairs, downstairs, and in the basement, looking for the source of the beeps with my faithful companion trailing close behind just as confused as I was. Ah, I'm getting close, I would think. No sooner would that thought come to mind than I would realize I was exactly the same distance from the beep-beep-beep as I had been before. No matter where I went in the house I encountered the same level of volume. In fact the faint beep-beep-beep seemed to be following me around the house as I went from room to room. Not only could I not find it, I could not escape it. Rather than me pursuing it, the beep-beep-beep seemed to be pursuing ME of all things like some kind of ghost. It was downright spooky!

I don't remember how long I was in this state of confusion before I finally realized that the beep-beep-beep was coming from the pocket of my sweatshirt where I had tucked my handset phone. Apparently, I had accidentally hit the talk button on it somehow when I bent over to turn off my alarm clock that morning. All that time, my phone was trying to let me know that I needed to disconnect it. If only it could have said something like, "This is your phone speaking....."

Due to my harrowing beep-beep-beep experience, I believe it is high time our household appliances started identifying themselves when they have something to say. It would save some of us a lot of confusion.

But would we just be asking for trouble? I wonder. Talking appliances? Could our household appliances get so adept at communicating with us that other problems erupt? Imagine a household with talking appliances that end up getting into heated arguments with each other over things like who had the floor first.

OVEN: "This is your oven speaking and the biscuits are done. In fact, they are a little overdone. You might want to hurry up and...."

COFFEE MAKER: "Excuse me. I was talking first and you interrupted."

OVEN: "Listen, all you do is brew coffee and you are done. You don't have to worry about things like biscuits burning."

CLOTHES DRYER: "Yoo-hoo in there. Isn't anyone going to pay attention to ME? While you two are arguing about who was talking first and whose work is more important, I am sitting here in the laundry room with a load of dry clothes on the verge of doing some serious wrinkling. And I can't get anyone's attention."


Now wouldn't that make for a fun story. Talking appliances!


  1. True! It would make for a fun story--you've already made it a fun post is one. Nice post.

    These thoughts reminded me of a darker short story by Ray Bradbury called "There Will Come Soft Rains." Read it on line here:

    (Be sure to make that address one line in your search engine.)
    I once memorized that story for a speech contest in college.

  2. Patterns, you memorized that whole story one time? Wow! I went to that site and read it briefly, but I want to go back and read it again.

    Indeed the story had a dark theme to it unlike what I had in mind for a short story about talking appliances. My talking appliances would have heart and soul to them. They would worry a lot about biscuits burning and clothes wrinkling for instance. They'd make sure the family pet got something to eat too.

    I thought my daughter was going to come back here and tell her story about the experience she had with her handset phone one day. I'll tell it for her.

    So, one day the phone rang and my daughter turned around to pick up her handset. She could tell it was close by behind her somewhere. But she couldn't find it. The phone kept ringing. She kept looking around behind her for it turning around and around like a dog chasing its tail. She had forgotten that she had hooked it on the back of her jeans.

    I think it is healthy to laugh at ourselves now and then.

  3. We've been doing some laughing at ourselves this week. For one thing, it's snowing. Did you get any in greater Chicagoland?
    About that story. It is futuristic and about the world that's left after "mutuallly assured destruction" so yes, dark is one way to put it. But in the middle of it there is a poem by Sarah Teasdale (the title comes from that poem). It's interesting, but it did not win anything in the forensics tournament at Clemson.
    Happy Easter!

  4. That's a funny story Susie and I know what you mean about all the different beeps. My cell phone refused to let me go to sleep the other day, I left it in my purse and the low battery alarm would go off every few minutes until I got up and figured out what the heck it was.

    Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, my alarm went off to wake me up for church and I set it so I would have plenty of time to get ready. Well, I got up when the alarm woke me up. I have it set to music because the beep isn't loud enough anyway, I got up and got ready and rushed off to church checking the time on the clock before I left and noticed I was running about five minutes behind schedule so I rushed a little to get over to the church and when I pulled in to the parking lot there wasn't very many cars there. I thought "it is Palm Sunday so where is everyone?" Well, as it turned out my AUTOMATIC clock woke me an hour early because it was now daylight savings time when it was programmed to change from the factory. Remember, we switched the clocks three weeks early this year! I did had a nice converstion with my friend Joan and talked with some of my other friends I haven't talked with for a while and it turned out for the good. Strange how those beeping gadgets can have such an effect on our lives now.

  5. I read the story by Ray Bradbury POI. It facinates me to read stories about future predictions written years ago that predict how we might be living now. I also read with some amusement the small bit of information about Ray Bradbury, Ray Douglas Bradbury (b.1920) was born in Waukegan ILL. I spent many a day in Waukegen, it is where the US Navy Great Lakes training facility is located, I went to boot camp there and went to my first school there.

    I noticed he mentioned Sara Teasdale as poems that the "system" might have read outloud. I like Sara Teasdale very much, she wrote many poems about flowers, nature, and love all mixed into one, something that takes the hard edge off of me.

    I think Bradbury saw that people wanted things "taken care of" and some of the dirty details of life would be made less tedious but at the sacrifice of some of the finer and more precious things that make life enjoyable and worthwhile.

    Dooryard Roses

    I have come the selfsame path
    To the selfsame door,
    Years have left the roses there
    Burning as before.
    While I watch them in the wind
    Quick the hot tears start --
    Strange so frail a flame outlasts
    Fire in the heart.

    Sara Teasdale

  6. Oh my. What has the world come to???
    At least we can still laugh.

    Sharon R.