Because we live in a new world, there's a very good chance that one day you will come across an unusual sound you can't identify. It might be your new washing machine playing a jingle when the load is done; murderous sounds coming from a video game in your son's room; or a reminder from your microwave that your leftovers have been ready for the last two hours.
I don't know about you, but I Google everything. Strange rash? Google it. Lost your Good Housekeeping stuffing recipe from 1972? Google it.
I don't think the Internet has ever let me down until I set out to find the source of a mysterious beep coming from my basement. It was a loud intermittent beep that began sometime after my uncle finished painting several rooms in my house. After a fruitless search of my basement, I typed, "Annoying beeping sound coming from my basement, and I'm ready to move out" into the Google search bar.
And wouldn't you know it! There were virtual support groups of people who had been living with mysterious beeps in their homes, and, admitting they were powerless, they'd hopped on the Internet to search for help.
One girl admitted she had been living with the beeps in her house for more than a year, and unable to locate the source, she'd finally surrendered and decided to live with it.
A few engineers on the Internet offered suggestions, and like a good junior detective with my invisible ink pen, I'd run downstairs thinking I could identify and detain the suspect. I always came back upstairs empty-handed, and the beep seemed to enjoy my discouragement; it would always beep the loudest as I closed the basement door.
Then the cable man showed up to connect our cable, and knowing he'd be spending time in the basement, I tried to convince him that life would be a lot more pleasant on this particular work detail if he could find where the beeping sound was coming from. I'd had some of the greatest minds in my family pondering this mystery, and no one had been able to solve it. Neither could the cable man. Like everyone else, he feigned concern and then ran to his truck as soon as he could.
Next I called an electrician who said he wouldn't take my case. "I was at a house in Westfield that had the same problem," he said, "And for three days straight, I tried to find the source of that beep, and I'm just not willing to do it again."
You'd think I was asking him to find my grandmother's dentures in a septic tank, but who would have known that beeping sounds were annoying people the world over?
That's when I took the garbage out.
It was a beautiful night, and I lingered outside near the mailbox, happy to be away from the noise, bathed in silence beneath the moon. Just as I was turning to go inside, I heard a loud beep near the bushes.
Really, I thought? The beep has followed me outside?
I pondered FBI plots and sinister plans by the CIA.
I called the gas company in the morning, thinking they had some sort of electronic locating probe that had gotten loose and had traveled from my basement to the gas line outside. What do I know?
A no-nonsense woman from the gas company showed up, and we stood together in the basement going over my story. And just as I got to the part where the beep followed me outside, she suddenly said, "I don't hear the beeping sound anymore."
And neither did I. For the first time in a week there was nothing but silence.
"Is it garbage day?" she asked, folding her arms and looking at me sheepishly.
I nodded yes.
"I think you've just passed along your problem to the dump."
And that's when it hit me. My Uncle had replaced our smoke detectors while he was painting, and he'd thrown the old ones out. These types of detectors have reverberating sound waves, so while we were sticking our flashlights into the rafters, the smoke detectors were happily chirping from the garbage can.
The gas lady had a very good laugh. And after a while, I did too.
I kind of like life's mysteries, especially ones with happy endings. In an automated, technologically driven existence, there is so much that we no longer understand. But sometimes, it's just a smoke detector in a garbage can and not the CIA.