The sneering tyranny of unnecessary beeps
Your microwave thinks you're stupid
Humans in the 21st century have learned to respect beeps. Our phones? They beep. Our computers? Beep beep. Every electronic device? Beep beep beep.
Beeps are merely spiritual successors to previous alarms. In the time before our time, the time of mechanical time, one would be informed of the passing of time with bells and rings. That time was preceded by a time with no alerts when you had to actively check in on time. Keep an eye on that hourglass! And in the time before even that time, the time of celestial time, one had to proactively look to the sky to check in on the time with their eyes. If you were blind, you had to ask a friend.
But we princes of Maine, we kings of New England, we live in the era of beep time.
We love our beeps, mostly. Even when we don’t love them we have learned to obey them. The beep is pregnant with purpose. Only a fool ignores the beeps that bound around our mortal crowns.
But not all beeps are created equal. There are good beeps, flawed beeps, and evil beeps.
An alarm clock is a good beep. It isn’t a beep you love to hear, but it serves an obvious purpose. Got to wake up!
The oven beep is a godsend beep. It can save you from any number of bad situations. Without that beep you might perhaps forget your turkey until smoke plumes set off your smoke alarm.
Smoke alarm beeps are not flawed in theory but are often in practice. It is good to be alerted to smoke in your house but they can be set off too easily or impossible to silence.
Many modern refrigerators beep when they have been left open. The argument for the refrigerator beep is a little more complicated than the oven beep. The refrigerator beep in part alerts you because leaving your refrigerator door open for really long extended periods of time threatens the food contained within it. But that takes a while. The other, perhaps more real, argument has to do with saving energy. If you leave it open while you’re doing ten things in the kitchen, your energy bill will go up and society has an interest in not wasting energy. Thus the beeps serve you but also the Earth.
These are compelling reasons for a refrigerator beep. In my life I have lived through the age of beep-less refrigerators and into the age of beeping refrigerators. I understand the idea and support it in theory. However, the modern refrigerator beep is not always implemented correctly. (Disclaimer: As research in this important field is in an embryonic stage, I can only rely here on my personal refrigerator experience.)
Some modern refrigerators begin beeping almost instantly. If you have had one of the new refrigerators that starts beeping after about 10 seconds, then you probably have a love-hate relationship with it. Ten seconds is just not enough time to really explore your refrigerator. Some refrigerators, I imagine, can be silenced. Or the length of time before the beep begins can be personalized. But in many refrigerators, you don’t have that control. The beeps are set by the manufacturer.
You can google as much as you want but you will not find a way to stop your Blomberg refrigerator from beeping before you have had a chance to put all your groceries away.
I do not like the fact that Blomberg does not trust me to decide for myself how long I should be able to have my refrigerator door open. I would be absolutely fine with—indeed, perhaps appreciative of— a refrigerator beep that went off after two minutes because in that situation it would really be alerting me to the fact that I had failed to close the door all the way by accident. It would not be whining to me about how I’m a bad person for standing in front of my open refrigerator for too long. But, I must admit, that I understand the motivations behind the fascist Blomberg beeps. They don’t want me to waste energy. They are trying to change my behavior. And it is bad to waste energy. My behavior probably should change. Do I think this dumb company should be telling me what to do? No. But the dumb company and I agree about the fundamental negative externalities of leaving a refrigerator door open.
Then there are evil beeps.
Friends, there are evil beeps among us.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Calm Down to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.