Beep


We recently bought a GE Café microwave oven. It is sleek and elegant and works perfectly. Except for one thing. Like all microwave ovens these days, it beeps when your food is done. The little screen says FOOD IS READY. Then, a minute later, it beeps again. And then it beeps again. And again. And so on every minute, long after the food has rotted and the sun has shone its last.

“Beep,” the microwave said.

“Who designs such a thing?” I asked Mia. “Beep once to tell me that you’re done. Or even three times. But then shut the fuck up.”

Mia is a calmer person than I am. “It’s just a beep,” she said.

“It’s not just a beep. It’s many beeps. There’s an asshole somewhere, working for GE, who went to a lot of trouble to ensure that there’s a beep every minute into perpetuity, even though no one wants it.”

But I was wrong.

I think it’s a useful function a concerned citizen on the internet responded when someone like me complained about the beeping. And it’s safe

Yeah, I thought, safe from what?

“I can imagine a constant beeping when things require actual attention,” I told Mia.

“And I can imagine actual attention,” she replied under her breath.

“Beep,” the microwave said.

“Like when your fridge stands open, or your nuclear reactor melts down. You know?”

“Hmm—”

“But when the rice is done, I mean, so fucking what?”

I typed into Google, how to turn off cooking complete reminder. There were several responses with that exact title, so things looked hopeful. Maybe there was just some setting I’d overlooked, or a magic combination of buttons to press for 3 seconds if you were one of those weird people who didn’t like the reminder.

Go to Settings, the advice was, Go to Sound, Set Level to 0. All this was stated as though that was a solution. I didn’t want the microwave muted altogether. It made useful beeps when I touched it. I just wanted to stop the beeping once it was done.

“Beep,” the microwave said.

“I’m going to install this SmartHQ app,” I told Mia. “Apparently you can control the oven from your phone with it.”

Mia looked up from what she was doing. “In the time you get your phone out, you can walk over and cancel the cycle.”

“I want to sit here,” I grumbled as I struggled with the App Store.

“Walking is good for you,” Mia said far away.

After downloading the app, finding the network and password of the microwave on the inside of its door using a magnifying glass, and hooking SmartHQ up to our home WiFi, all was ready.

YOU’RE ALL SET it said on my screen. I put some food into the microwave, clicked a button in the SmartHQ app that said ADD 30 SECONDS, and the microwave started.

“Fantastic!” I shouted. “See?”

Even Mia was impressed. “Was that from your phone?” she asked.

“Yip.”

“Try stopping it,” she said.

There was a little stop icon and I touched it. The microwave stopped and didn’t say FOOD IS READY.

“See,” I cried, “all you have to do is a little work.”

“Maybe it’s because the food isn’t ready,” Mia remarked and returned to her work.

I clicked ADD 30 SECONDS again and let it run until it was done. The microwave screen said FOOD IS READY. I clicked the little stop icon, but the option was greyed out.

“What the fuck?” I yelled. “The same asshole made sure that even here you can’t do it.”

“Don’t shout,” Mia said.

“This is me restraining myself,” I seethed. “Can you imagine the design meeting where they decided this?”

“Beep,” the microwave said.

Some more Googling revealed that one could get Alexa to control the microwave once you’ve installed SmartHQ.

“Maybe that’s it,” I told Mia. “Two degrees of separation.”

I enabled the skill in Alexa and let her find the microwave. Then I put some water in the microwave, closed the door and said, “Alexa, turn on the microwave.”

“For how long,” she asked, quite sensibly.

“Ten seconds,” I said.

The microwave turned on, did its thing for ten seconds, and stopped. Its little screen said FOOD IS READY.

“Alexa,” I said, “cancel microwave.”

“Tu-duh.”

“Alexa,” I tried again, “stop microwave.”

“The microwave does not appear to be running.”

I had a thought. Perhaps I could start it and stop it before the food was ready.

“Alexa,” I said, “start microwave.”

“The microwave is already running.”

“Fu—uck!” I cried.

“Beep,” the microwave said.




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  1. I looove this! It is these sort of little irritations that can drive one round the bend. Add all these little irritations to life in South Africa, and it’s no wonder there are so much stress here.
    When will designers learn to really think about what they are doing!
    Thank you for your posts, Martian 3d! I enjoy every one of them. 🙂