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Things That Go Beep In The Night

Anyone who has lived opposite a pelican crossing will tell you that the sudden “beep…beep…beep” that indicates that it is safe for a pedestrian to cross the road is highly disruptive to a good night’s sleep. This may be hugely beneficial to those who are blind and want to move safely from one side of the street to the other but this incessant yet erratic alarm pierces the night and pierces the ears.

Even more infuriating is the noise caused by neighbours.

Not just the “boom boom boom” of the bass played at full volume late on a Saturday night from the party next door but the overly keen gardener who starts mowing the lawn at the crack of dawn on a summer Sunday morning. Then there’s the couple who live in an adjoining property, to the side, above or below yours, who are constantly arguing, stomping about, slamming doors and throwing things at the walls or each other.

To deal with this, you can discuss the matter with the offending noise source whilst still trying to maintain friendly relations (very difficult!), request that the local authority serves a Noise Abatement Order, put up with it in a miserable and stoical manner or move elsewhere in search of peace and quiet. If you’ve suffered this type of noise pollution for a long time, the attraction of silence and being far away from other people is astonishingly attractive.

Unfortunately, we now have to deal with another source of daily noisy disturbances and these are wholly self-inflicted. We can’t blame the neighbours. we can’t complain to the police or government departments. We’ve brought it on ourselves. This type of interruption disturbs us all the time but is most insistent at night when we least want and least expect it. We’re talking about the “beeps!”

Beeps are an adjunct to the digital age. Mobile phones go beep when a text message is being received or the keys are depressed. They beep when their batteries are low or in some cases when signal quality is poor. Fridges beep to alert you that you haven’t closed the door properly but they also beep when a family member just wants a glass of milk in the middle of the night and doesn’t shut the door quickly and the beeper starts up. Computers beep when emails arrive or when updates are available. This should teach us to turn the power off completely and not leave the device on stand by.

Cherry pickers beep when they are moving, trucks beep when they are reversing, cars beep if passengers aren’t wearing seat belts or if a door is left open with the engine running. Railway workers have to set up a beeping machine whenever they are working on the train tracks to alert train drivers of their presence and to make sure that any homes nearby are fully aware that work is under way – even late at night when there are no trains due. Intruder alarms beep when you enter a property and they beep again when the entry code is inserted. Some front doors beep when they are opened and closed. Computer games beep all the time they are being played and are often noisier than the cries of the players. And the worst culprits of all are battery powered smoke detectors. These always seem to beep at about 4 o’clock in the morning. This might be because this is the coldest time of the day and a time when an almost exhausted battery just can’t go on any longer, gives up the will to be silent and desperately wants to wake you up to replace it with a new fully charged model.

We can curtail most of these noises through self-discipline and simply turning things off but, generally, we don’t. As a result, we continue to be defiled by self-inflicted noise yet, at the same time, ironically, we revere the serenity of the countryside, venerate the tranquility of rural life and are always yearning for peace and quiet.