Is the house on fire? Is carbon monoxide collecting? Is the coffee ready? Is it a bird?
Know your beeps. If can’t hear the beeps, you’re out of luck. Or lucky, if you don’t like beeps.
A series of mysterious beeping tones can function as a cost-free hearing test for husband and wife. Hugh heard the faint little beeps first. Then I did too.
We rounded up all our smoke detectors, even from upstairs. Some seemed suspect. We thought we heard some beeps. Or did we?
We gave up. I returned to the easy chair. Every time I started to speak, beeps beeped. We decided it was the chair squeaking. (Apparently, I am an animated talker unable to frame a sentence without at least tensing a few muscles if not leaning forward into whatever I’m about to say.)
But was it really the chair? We listened intently. Maybe it wasn’t my chair after all. (Strait from the song.) Then I heard a smoke detector beep, but Hugh did not. Yay! A frequency all my own!
Either way, we were both beep-challenged. It was almost fun.
Then we saw the flames.
Just kidding. No flames. Instead we were surprised to discover my cellphone was the source of the beeping. Somehow I silenced it, never really determining what it was trying to say.
So many little tones. I remember when all such noises were birds or something that needed greasing. Operative sounds tended to be robust. Some even reverberated, like that triangle cooks rang to say “come and get it.”
The telephone ring was the most significant sound at our house. Ours rang twice. A single ring was for Lucylle Green, who lived nearby with her cats and used to be married to my Uncle Menco.
A more predictable ring came from the little Underwood typewriter bell. Has anyone invented computer keyboard software to mimic that sound?
Yes, you can download a program to make your computer make typewriter sounds. My keys are now clacking. The space bar clunks. No bell rings at the end of each line. It was a free app. No bells and whistles. But I like it. Clack, clack. Clunk.
At our house we had a doorbell too, even though we could hear people drive up our road. But Mother had grown up in Vernon and Electra, respectively, and never let herself get completely ruralized.
She told me the postman in Electra blew his whistle when leaving mail. He passed by twice a day!
At age 15, Mother woke early Aug. 3, 1923 to the voice of a newsboy hawking papers: “President Harding is dead!” Everybody in Electra must have heard him through their open bedroom widows.
Now nobody opens windows. No need even to look through them. Porch cameras capture the outside world. We read the newspaper online. Siri can tell us the outside temperature. So can Alexa. Ho-hum.
We are in control of our insulated existences … until we hear an errant beep.
Hanaba Munn Welch, a correspondent for the Times Record News who divides her time between Abilene and a farm north of Vernon, appears on Mondays. Her columns, as a tribute to the Childress Engine 501, always contain, amazingly, 501 words.
This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: In search of unidentifiable beep-beeps Hanaba Welch column