Dinged

Aug 26, 2020–The other day I jumped in the pickup to run up our driveway to fix the gate keypad. Recklessly, I neglected to fasten my seatbelt. Of course, my mother the truck disapproved of this irresponsible behavior, and proceeded to remind me the whole way with a series of irritating dings.

Stop it! I yelled. Why are you smart enough to know I’m not wearing a seat belt, yet not smart enough to know I am driving on a private road?

Ten years ago I wrote about how our appliances were increasingly nagging us. Now with the spread of wi-fi, smart appliances, and ubiquitous cell coverage, we live in a world where we cannot hope to escape the ear-boring dings.

Today everything from our microwave to our washing machine to our Toyota is beeping, ringing, and buzzing – reminding us to fasten our seatbelts, start the spin cycle, and stir our oatmeal.

Our old microwave emitted a single “ding” when the cycle was done. That was all we needed to know our cheese was melted. The new microwave apparently frets that we will forget to extract the nachos. It beeps every 30 seconds after the cycle is over. Then when we do open the door, it adds a final ding of victory.

Our clothes dryer is more annoying. It belches a razzing buzz at the end of the Permanent Press cycle. If we don’t leap to retrieve our laundry, it resumes tumbling, buzzing us every 10 minutes to shield us from the ignominy of wearing wrinkled chinos.

Then there are the automobiles, eerily morphing into automatons. For a long time, cars dinged pleasantly when we left our keys in the ignition. It was like your sweetheart chirping, “Honey, don’t forget your keys!” My 1999 van was like that. I pat her dash in thanks, but of course I ignore her message. You could slightly pull out the key just enough to stay in the steering column, but far enough to stop the dinging. With new cars, that trick stopped working. I tried to extract the key in our pickup to the very last tooth, so it barely hung in the slot, but still the dinging continued. “Don’t you dare leave those keys in the ignition!” rags the imaginary voice. “You know we’ll be locked out and you’ll have to call your wife’s brother again… ding ding ding!”

The aural auto assault doesn’t stop.

Leave the dome lights on? Ding.

Heavy object in the passenger seat? Ding.

Door ajar? Ding ding ding ding ding…

Granted, all this dinging is for our safety. But what about those times when you are using your car for purposes other than driving? Like when you want to use the headlights to illuminate a gate repair after dark? Ding!

Or leave the car door open so you can hear the radio while you change oil? Buzz!

Or you leave the keys in the ignition so you can find them in the morning? Ding buzz beep!

Even when you reach your destination, there is no escaping the noise. Walk into any place of business, and a buzzer acknowledges your entrance. “Welcome,” it wants you to hear; “potential shoplifter,” I hear it announce.

I read where there is a rise in tinnitus–ringing in the ears. I’m skeptical it is all coming from inside our heads.

There is one “ding” I do miss, though. It’s that sweet sound the manual typewriter made at the end of each line. It is just not as satisfying to write in silence.