Why are you beeping at me?

I’m really not a morning person. Even my parents, if they phone me up on the weekends, don’t call before noon so they won’t have to talk to me in start-up mode. I’m not that bad any more – been more than a few years since I’ve slept until noon – but, still, I’m not a morning person.

Luckily, my job doesn’t require me to interact much with humans and it’s a cool company so I get to stumble out of bed around 8:30 or 9:00. I work until I’m done (“done” being either completing whatever I’m doing or when my brain starts creaking) and as long as I keep on schedule, the hours don’t matter too, too much. Within reason.

Anyway, I was woken, quite rudely, at the ungodly hour of 5AM yesterday. Apparently, the CO2 detector in my living room decided, at 5Am, that it’s 9V backup battery was low. It is, of course, also on house power – the 9V is just backup in case we lose power.

Now, I totally understand that this little box may well save my life someday and that its cousins have probably saved many lives over the years but, that said, who the hell designed this thing so that it would start beeping every single minute at full, ear-splitting volume the moment the backup battery gets a little low, even if it’s at 5AM?!?!

How about this instead: make it beep at 1/10th volume every 5 minutes for 6 hours then increase the volume and decrease the interval every hour after that. I think that would avoid the “holy crap! what’s on fire??” rude awakenings at 5AM.

And who’s got 9V batteries lying around nowdays? Most everything is AA with AAA coming in a distant second place. Except for having to replace smoke/CO2 detectors, when’s the last time you had to buy a 9V? Could I have thrown on some clothes, gone out and spent $20 at the local minimart (at 5AM (!!!) they can charge whatever they please) for a new 9V with about 2 weeks of shelf life left on it? Yes. I guess. Then I would have had to forage for a ladder, though – got a condo in this ancient (yet beautiful) converted mill-type building and the ceilings are about 14 feet up. I don’t want to do that, not at 5AM.


So, yeah, that was yesterday, Monday morning. At 5AM!!!

Today, I’m at work, working hard, and hear a strange beep from my pocket. Seeing how strange beeps coming from me tend to make me curious, I empty said pocket and discover my newish cell phone is beeping ever 20 seconds or so. Not the insane, ear splitting howl my evil CO2 detector puts out. Just a quiet, regular beep.

It’s nothing nice, my new cell phone. I’ve got a pay-as-you go plan that only costs about $100 per year, which I like a lot more than the plans that cost that much every month. I don’t use it very often so it’s ok that it’s not a nice one.

I open it up and try to figure out why it wants my attention. No missed messages, I know I’m not low on pay-as-you-go, being in my pocket doesn’t seem to have mushed any buttons. I finally notice that the battery indicator is flashing at me. It is, apparently, quite low.

This in itself is not a big deal as I have been neglegent in plugging it in to refuel, yet I couldn’t help wonder why it was wasting its last electric breaths beeping at me every 20 seconds or so. Wouldn’t you – and I know you, anonymous reader, have a cell phone – rather it beeped once and put up a message saying “yo, charge me!!” then just shut up and saved what power it could? The beeping went on for about an hour before finally stopping. The phone was totally dead after that.

My fridge also beeps at me. I leave the door open for more than about a minute and it beeps, quite loudly. The first few times that happened, I thought it was the smoke alarm.

My car beeps at me, too. Seatbelt! Now!! Obey!! Pay attention to this!! Hey! You’re backing up!! Pay attention! Pay attention! Pay attention!

Good grief.

I sometimes run into the “to beep or not to beep” issue at work. I have to think ahead about how some customer might be using the software I’m working on. I see  them doing something that, while not necessarily dangerous, is something I think they probably shouldn’t be doing. 

Should I pop up a message box? Maybe display some sort of ominous warning and try to scare them out of this not-dangerous-but-not-right thing they seem to be trying? Should I just say no and disallow this action? I don’t know. I guess each case deserves its own consideration and, staying within the look & feel of the software, take action appropriate for the circumstances.

I do know one thing, though. I’m not going to be writing software that beeps more than once at people ’cause that’s just really, really annoying.

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