61. The Good Old Days Part II

Published on 17 February 2024 at 09:32

© 2024 Robert Sickles

You may have noticed. I do like to reminisce about bygone days. It could be alright to accept the changes of modern life, but I’m dragging my feet with some of the silly things we’ve allowed into our lives, supposedly such great conveniences. Today, something in particular gets my attention.

I wouldn’t say it’s my pet peeve—I’m just observing and commenting; If no one else sees it or cares, that’s fine. I’m noticing light and noise pollution—no, not like your neighbor’s kilowatt porch light or his monstrous leaf blower. It’s just a bunch of little things, right inside the home.


The Light Show

I remember when my house used to be dark at night when I turned the lights off. Now, except for when there’s a big power outage, darkness has become a thing of the past.

I like to turn in for the night and settle into the natural cocoon of darkness. And there’s simply the art of trusting in the stars and moonlight until the sun rises. Yet, why is my house so full of light? When did we decide that every gadget and appliance should have little “POWER ON” lights or “CONTROL PANELS” that indicate… well, that the power is on and we, or someone, has control? 

Even without a nightlight in the bathroom, the way was still lit well enough by the little lights on our rechargeable toothbrushes and trimmer. Not feeling it yet? OK, but that’s just the start.

I walked out to the pantry to get a box of Kleenex. It was very late, but the kitchen was lit up like a Christmas party. I must have forgotten to grab my mug of hot water for tea, so the microwave was beeping and flashing “FOOD READY.” And the dishwasher was blinking and tooting, announcing it had just finished. Those two were performing a syncopated conga dance rhythm, very catchy. All the appliance clocks were calling out, “Hey everyone, Bob’s awake! PARTY! PARTY!” The home security control panel, inkjet printer, and thermostat were gathered around enjoying the screensaver on Linda’s laptop—a photo cavalcade of weird and fascinating geographic locations. I opened the fridge. Of course, the light was on, as if to say, “Evenin’ Bob. Great party! Would you care for a little cheddar and apple?” I glanced around the corner to see another lively group, the entertainment center, carrying on in the living room.  Am I dreaming?

I peeked in my office. Wow! Another light show! Not so much a party in there, but more like the command center of a starship. The twinkling lights on my printer, scanner, monitor, webcam, modem, speakers, smoke alarm, power bank, handi-vac, and assorted recharging bases were all on status “go” for the next mission. It really is a 24/7 operation. There could be over a hundred little red, green, or blue LED indicator lights in this house, I discover new ones all the time. 

I went back to bed, back to the dark. I rolled over and glanced at the clock, and thought, “Oh, man. What kind of reassurance am I supposed to get from a red ‘POWER ON’ light on my alarm clock? Don’t I know it’s operating when I see that it’s telling the time?”

I guess I will become a minion to the electronic devices in my life; I must learn to heed their flashing indicator lights, and make sure that all charging cables are plugged in correctly and batteries are fresh. My new vocation.

I wonder... if you get an electronic medical implant, a bionic thing like a pacemaker, do they give you a “POWER ON” light somewhere on your skin?  I mean, how else would you know if you’re still OK or not?

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow
Take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your dream

Jesse Colin Young, The Youngbloods


Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

Along with little idiot lights, we also have a lot of beeps and toots from our appliances and devices. Remember quiet? There was a time when the only things ringing in my house were the telephone and the oven timer. 

The other day the bread maker, broiler, microwave, stove, dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, e-reader, laptop, cellphone, and “Battery Low” alert from the smoke alarm all started whistling, ding-donging and chirping simultaneously. Someone was out front, ringing the doorbell. Where could I turn? What a frenzy! I fell to my knees, tormented and weeping with my hands over my ears!  “No, no! Why me?”

I remain skeptical about “smart” appliances and their intrusive blinking and beeping, not to mention their secret plot to take over the world! Do I need a smart toaster? I can already hear my toast pop up now, what’s the point of one that continues beeping and sending “TOAST IS READY” text messages, even if I’m traveling in Spain for two weeks?  Or a wi-fi refrigerator that chimes when the coffee creamer is almost expired, and automatically adds it to my grocery list?  That would be a very expensive pint of creamer.

At first, I thought it was a notification from a new app on my phone... a faint, muffled peep. But that wasn’t it. Something in the kitchen was going off every few minutes. I couldn’t pinpoint it. Finally, I discovered our long-forgotten old iPod, hidden by a tangle of dusty power cords behind the laptop. It had gotten yanked off its USB cable and its weak little tone meant it was gasping for a recharge. “It’s all right, old friend, I can let you go silently into the night. Rest in peace, iPod.”

[Sound Effect: BING-BONG BELL] I excuse myself in the middle of our conversation. “Just a sec, I'd better check my phone. Let’s see... I have a new text message! Hey, cool! It’s my refrigerator, reminding me to buy milk and to drink more Ovaltine!”

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5 months ago

Don't know whether to laugh or cry at this, but I hope the gods of the electric grid never fail us like in Texas.

5 months ago

Wow this made me want to go around and unplug everything. Guess you don’t need a night light. My bedroom clock has a red light which is supposed to improve sleep so that’s helpful since sleep disruptions have become my norm. Thanks for the reminder…I should check my smoke alarm batteries. Enjoy your tea, or is it Ovaltine today?!

5 months ago

I sleep like I'm in a coma so lights and noise don't bother me. However, every time I enter my daughter's house, my phone preferentially picks up her refrigerator rather than her WiFi router so I don't have internet until I change things. This, I find, is truly stupid.

Kathy M.
5 months ago

This made me laugh out loud! What a comical but accurate picture of all our modern appliances. I can picture you on your knees in the living room with your hands over your ears and screaming. Thanks for the good laugh and wakeup call!

Linda Sickles
5 months ago

I always critic Robert's pieces with how often I laugh. This is a goody!