02 March, 2012

Aliens Among Us

These are alarming times, and I am getting testy about it. Take microwave ovens, for instance. Some models beep up to five times when the food has finished heating. Is there some societal fear behind this innovation? That I might decide to heat some food and then forget I am hungry? Perhaps there's a greater number of people than I realized who turn around and find themselves in the kitchen for no apparent reason, and it is only thanks to the genius of appliance makers that a string of five annoying, uninterruptible Pavlovian beeps brings them back to their senses. Come to think of it, every time I press a keypad button, I hear a beep, even when it is clear that my entry is changing the display. Could be a concession for the visually impaired, you might say. How could it be, when the panel is an absolutely flat touch screen, with no distinguishing textural features to identify the buttons in the first place?

Then we have automobile makers thinking that electric door locks need to announce they have executed The Lock by honking the friggin' vehicle's horn. Why is that necessary? I push the 'lock' button, I understand the vehicle locks itself. If it's locked, I know the alarm is "armed," for heavens' sake. If it matters to me, I can even do this within earshot of the door lock mechanisms clicking shut as my rolling fortress seals itself off from the nefarious scum wandering the parking lot pushing their grocery carts. I swear I am going to punch the next SUV driver who blithely walks away from their truck and then flicks the key fob over the shoulder to Activate Locking & Alarm Mechanisms Now! just as I am strolling past the grill. You heard it here first.

My washing machine beeps every time I switch a dial to a different setting. Do I not recognize when I am grasping a dial and turning it from Normal to Permanent Press? And don't even get me started on the quasi-alarms that Windows builds into their OS, spewing Musak declarations that, "Yes, I am really shutting down because you told me to shut down and I asked you to confirm that you want to do this and you did agree that, yes, this is what you wanted to do so I am doing it for you like you told me to." It's like a dog, waiting for my praise or a biscuit. Don't take it personally, computer, but, all robot apocalypses aside, the last I looked you were still just a machine and as such, when I tell you to shut down, I want you to just shut down and shut up about it - hold the emotional melodious goodbyes for when you get your hard-drive swapped out or something a bit more serious.

So it is a small wonder that when we unwrapped and fired up our new waffle iron, I nearly dropped my bottle of maple syrup on the floor when five strident beeps rang out shortly after I'd poured the batter in. It's not some male point of pride that made me skip the owner's manual on this - I just assumed I plug the stinking thing in and it heats up and then I cook my waffles and then I unplug it when I am done. Delving into the manual showed me how dangerously ignorant I was; there was a small chorus of beeps that, if listened to keenly like a bird watcher waiting for calls in the forest, would navigate me through the stages of warm-up, readiness, mid-way testing, and must-surely-be-cooked-to-perfection-by-now. Once my nerves calmed down and I ate my carillon-cooked waffles, I pulled out my trusty side-cutters and like a vet with a Cocker Spaniel pup I flipped that iron over and snipped away the troublesome bits. That last process wasn't in the owner's manual, but for those of you wanting a bit more control - and silence - your life, here is how it can look:

so satisfying...

No comments:

Post a Comment