Buzz and whir, flicker and flash
Long ago, I had a girlfriend who loved to talk about the house she was going to build someday.”I’m going to have a separate wing for everything that makes noise,” she insisted. At first, I thought she was referring to her two young children (from the failed marriage she’d left behind when she moved to Aspen).I didn’t say anything and she explained that she meant, “everything that whirrs, rattles, buzzes and beeps – the telephone, the fax machine, the refrigerator … all of that.”I thought banishing the machines to their own wing was a strange desire, but I didn’t mention it – the same way I hadn’t mentioned that I thought the noisemakers she was referring to were her kids … and probably for the same reason, too: a desperate hope that she wouldn’t dump me and break my heart. (She did anyway.)I realize now how wise she was.I was awakened not long ago in the middle of the night by our furnace, which is located just down the hall from our bedroom and fires up with a whoosh and a roar.I lay awake, listening to it growl and thinking, as I always do at those moments, how much I hate the gas company.Pretty soon, I realized I was hearing not just the furnace, but also the humidifier, which sits hissing and gurgling at the foot of our bed.And the air purifier, which buzzes and sighs – and occasionally gives off a disturbing electrical zzzap!And the receiver for the TV satellite dish, which awakens itself every night at midnight and clicks and clatters while it downloads all sorts of undoubtedly vital information – and probably uploads a complete log of our TV-watching habits to the Department of Homeland Security. (Yes! I confess! I watch “South Park.”)And then there were the lights. My old girlfriend hadn’t mentioned lights, but I know they had to be part of her banishment scheme.The humidifier has a blue light that casts an eerie glow on the ceiling. The purifier has a blue light of its own. I rolled over and saw the red glow of the digital alarm clock. Behind it, a red light gleamed on the base of the cordless phone.I got up and wandered out into the hall. There was a red light on the smoke detector; a red light on the carbon monoxide alarm.In the bathroom, there were lights on the chargers for our electric toothbrushes.As I walked through the house, I could hear the refrigerator running, rattling and squeaking in the dark – well, not really dark. All around were teeny, tiny glowing lights: red light on the cordless phone; blinking numbers on the answering machine to let me know how many messages were waiting; green light on my cell phone charger; red numbers on the digital clock on the coffee maker; the green digital clock on the microwave and another on the stove.I went upstairs to my office. The router for our Internet service had three green lights, flickering wildly. There was a red light on the fax machine and another red light on yet another cordless phone. Under my desk, a green light glowed on the surge suppresser, telling me that all was well with the electrical current flowing to my computer, which had a white light of its own that slowly faded off and on, informing me that it – unlike me – was sleeping.Downstairs, I heard a loud click, followed by the sound of rushing water. The water softener had just begun its two-hour cycle of doing whatever it is that water softeners do in the middle of the night. I thought of my old girlfriend and her noise-free wing. I wondered if I could build a new wing on our house – not a place to banish the machines, it’s too late for that, but a place where I could flee and hide from the noise and the lights.I looked outside. A fierce midwinter moon hung in the sky, its light reflecting off the snow-covered mountains. Yes, one more light. But at least, I thought, out there among the high peaks, all is silent.I walked out on the balcony to enjoy the wilderness silence and then I heard, far above, the roar of a jet plane, filling the sky from horizon to horizon, as it sliced through the night on its way to the West Coast.Nope, there’s nowhere to hide.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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