Time, 2am. You’ve fallen into deep, subterranean sleep, when a noise wakes you. Surfacing reluctantly from the snuggery of the duvet, you realize something is beeping, an alarm is going off “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”* Is it the smoke alarm? Or a malevolent intruder, lurking behind the curtains, clutching a mobile/ firearm? As you stagger round the house trying to work out what’s beeping and why, you trip over the cat in the darkness and thump head first into the wall. Perforce, by now you are knocked conscious and bleeding, but you have tracked the offending BEEP to your child’s bedroom.
The offspring is sound asleep, oblivious to the insistent beep-beep-beep that is emanating from its wardrobe. Tentatively, you open the wardrobe
to see that a green, toy-thing-with-wheels has decided to just start working. Is it f****** supernatural, you think? Uncharitably, you fall upon the culprit bashing its ‘off’ controls and flinging it back into the dark recesses of the wardrobe. You stumble back to bed in the wild hope of catching some ZZZs before 4am strikes and you have to get up to deliver the other offsprog to training.
Approximately five minutes after settling your head on your downy pillow, the thing goes off again. Can you ignore it? You try, you pull your covers over your head but you can still hear the thing, ‘beep-beep-beep’. Umbraged, you storm back to the wardrobe but this time you’re taking no chances and try to tip the batteries out. Only to do this you need to remove a cover plate, which requires a screwdriver; your chances of finding a screwdriver in the dark, at two am in the morning, are slimmer than ‘Slim, the stick insect’s’. We are the type of household where it’s hard enough to find anything in broad daylight, let alone in the wee wee hours. In short there’s more chance of finding a sea lion eating sandwiches on the sofa.
In desperation, you hurl the toy out into the garden, where it beeps wanly from the oleander bush. Guiltily, but too tired to care, you crawl back into bed, just as the ALARM beeps…
It occurs to me, that the average day has become all about responding to beeps; beeps of varying electronic tones, but insistent none-the-less. (We are like ‘Pavlov’s dog’ only taller, with less fur and possibly drier noses.)
The mobile phone for example, is a constant beeper, demanding that we text that, tweet this, post to, answer-the-other or just plain call back. Ditto the computer and tablet.
The car never fails to beep if the door is left ajar, or the lights on. Walk into a shop, or out of a shop and ill-sorted beeps are involved – especially if the labels have not been removed and you get arrested (there may be sirens!)
Elevators beep, and attempts to cross the road often concern a truck reversing or traffic lights beepingly, urging you to hurry.
At home, leave the fridge door open, it beeps and let’s not meddle with the reproving tones of the washing machine known round our place as ‘It Who Must Be Obeyed’. *
For the first twenty years of my life, I lead a halcyon, relatively beep-less existence. OK there was the melodic sound of the old telephone, which everyone felt free to ignore, or the ding-dong sound of the doorbell, which being a kid, meant you had no responsibility to answer (as your friends tended to just climb through the windows). For a bit of excitement you could ring the bell on the bus to get off at your stop and just sometimes there was the distant peal of the church bell, friendly, melodic and infrequent.
It was better then; a time when you could sit doing nothing in particular, for an indecent amount of time, without interruption and in complete and utter silence.
* Refers to ‘Lost In Space’ and John Mortimer’s ‘Rumpole’