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What’s an Ear To Do?

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They haunt me like politicians dressed for combat.

Remember the good old days when people wore beepers on their belts like gun holsters? They bragged about their pagers. In the beginning, it meant that you were important. Then everyone got one. The day I saw a construction worker wearing three beepers on his tool belt I knew the device’s days were numbered.

pager deviceBeepers/pagers aged out. The sound stuck.

Like mold on your favorite cheese, it wouldn’t go away. First it was the cell phone. You had to learn the beep that announced a call. Then you had to learn the beep for a text or email. Finally everyone in your sprawling contact list had their own sound.

Beeps evolved into tinny electronic messages and alerts that hurt your ears. They call them ringtones. You can buy thousands of ringtones on the internet from your favorite music to Hollywood aliens. Your phone can bark, moo, or meow; ho-ho like a crazy Santa; or sing in Russian. Mr. Bean will demand you pick up the phone; an electronic growl will hiss, “warning a hacker is destroying your phone;” or a clipped voice will flippantly announce, “I’m an idiot, you’re an idiot.”

One of the most popular ringtones of 2016 wailed, “it’s your mother pick it up. . .”

Lots of fun – except now you have to learn the sounds of people around you – not to get them confused with your playbook. It’s age-specific. There’s millennial spelled out in song; Southpark for the more mature; and for AFLers? I have Neil Diamond.

Hello again . . .

Selling ringtones is a billion dollar business, spawning websites, performers, and sound wizards. Even iTunes joined the competition. In 2012 sales slowed when people learned how to make custom ringtones or didn’t want to spend the money buying them.

I learned to live with it. Like those weird messages on vanity license plates, I tried to understand what was being said. Did a psycho laugh mean you’re manic? If a ringtone cried “The world is ending” does that mean you’re depressed? What does Jack Nicholson screaming “you want a job?” really say?

Then things went retro with classic old-telephone rings, doorbell chimes, and Popeye the Sailor Man. That drove me crazy. I couldn’t tell whether it was 1970 or 2016.

angry-birdsBeeps and ringtones continued to devolve into sounds that torture me like chalk on a blackboard. They’re everywhere. My refrigerator beeps if I don’t close the door fast enough. My microwave beeps to tell me dinner is done. Even my teapot spews alerts. I won’t discuss Angry Birds, Minions, and my grandkid’s toys.

Where’s Alvin and his Chipmunks when we need them?

One day I visited a friend in the hospital and complained about the beeps in my life.

“You think you have it bad?” He frowned. “There’s a beep for every machine, every room, every nurse . . . 24/7. They never stop.”

What’s an ear to do? Drown the phone in the kitchen sink? Hide out on a mountaintop where there’s no cell service? Go swimming with your non-waterproof devices?

There’s no escape. Perhaps we should embrace the beeps, ringtones, and other alerts that haunt our lives. Change your ringtone today! Chirp with Angry Birds and play with beep beep trucks. Read the bedtime book, Beep*Beep! Go to Sleep! to your grandchildren. Accept beeps, alerts, ringtones, and chirpy sounds as part of daily life.
Until someone invents beep-proof ear plugs.

Dr. Jeri Fink, author, photographer, traveler, and family therapist, challenges the creaky myths of aging. She believes that now is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, people, and places. Visit Dr. Jeri at www.jerifink.com,   www.hauntedfamilytrees.com,   or   www.bookwebminis.com to enter her world of discovery, fun, and insights. Her fiction project, Broken, is a series of seven thrillers that defy tradition. She is presently working on Book Web Minis – a series of fun, fast and positive mini books (50-70 pages long) where readers partner with the experts. Check it out at www.bookwebminis.com

She tells us: “I challenge the art of writing by merging fact, fictional elements, interactivity, and photography into nonfiction mini books. I draw from my training in social work, experience in individual and family therapy, professional research, and passion for exploring positive psychology. My 32 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements, and active online presence all reflect who I am today.”

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