Normally, I’m peevish and offended when someone rings the doorbell during dinner. The gall! The nerve! How dare they! Like there is a widely accepted International Time Zone of Dinner Time, roughly 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM, revolving with the planet, and doorbells should not be rung.
When this happens I basically open the door with an expression reserved for people that violate International Laws, like smuggling frogs to Australia.
Yesterday, I instantly donned this expression when the doorbell sounded at the exact same time as my new text alert on my cell phone, causing my head to spin 360 degrees and speculate that one of the three spatulas may have spontaneously learned to beep (foreshadowing alert!).
Luckily, my six and three-year-old daughters are like bloodhounds and charged the door- DURING DINNER- a time they are strictly forbidden to get up otherwise dinner would be roughly seven and a half hours, the rate being roughly 1.2 bites per hour.
The man at the door immediately apologized for bothering us, putting the mildest of dents in my how-dare-you-bring-frogs-to-Australia expression.
“I’m Boris,” he said. He was wearing a beer T-shirt. “I live in the house just above yours. Have you by chance been hearing any beeping sounds, like an alarm, very loud and high-pitched, at 4 AM?”
My expression vanished. I wanted to hug Boris. I wanted to cry with him. Mostly, I wanted to thank him with exuberance.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, as the kids wandered back to find something to do besides eat. My wife came to the door because I wasn’t shouting fiercely about ecosystems and predator-prey relationships. “I’ve been hearing it all summer! It’s a real nuisance!”
Boris and I talked scientifically for ten minutes, exchanging evidence and quickly developed The Alarm Clock Theory. The device emits four beeps that could be described as piercing, then pauses, then four beeps, then pauses. And this pattern occurs multiple times, like someone is hitting a snooze button. It is only on the weekdays, further evidence to support The Alarm Clock Theory.
Boris offered a competing theory, the Hot Tub Theory, that there is a Hot Tub that will beep when the water is at a certain temperature. I offered the obscure Security System Theory and also threw out there, in the true nature of ideating and scientific inquiry, where nothing is off the table, that my wife just bought a robotic vacuum that has an eerily similar beep to The Sleep Disturbance. (I kept quiet about the spatulas-I didn’t want to be the ridiculed in this burgeoning scientific community.)
He physically demonstrated, using a column on our house, how the sound can be blocked by a similar column on his house.
“Right here I can’t hear it,” he said, from behind the column.
“I only hear it when the windows are open,” I said.
“Me too!” he responded. “My wife just wants to keep the windows closed at all times and run the AC.”
We discussed the various directions and he then proceeded to share his evidence gathering results- he had been spending the entire evening, all within the Internationally accepted timeframe of Dinner Time, going door-to-door to inquire whether anyone else had any knowledge or experience with The Disturbance. I shared various inquiries I had made with local neighbors. We eliminated houses, crossed off suspects, and narrowed the range of directions and houses still possible.
“Someone that goes to work early.”
“Can’t be him, he’s retired.”
Then we shared a look. “It’s gotta stop,” he said. “It’s a mental health thing.”
He gave me his card. We shook hands.
After he left I sent him a text. He responded: “I already feel better.”
Then during the next few hours, periodically my phone- or my spatula- would beep and he would update me on his investigative work.
A sample text: “Spoke to your neighbor, young man. Doesn’t hear anything and says it’s not him.”
Then, later, I realized that my ally in the Disturbance is a real scientist when he sent me the following text: “The sound isn’t from far away. That’s the only thing we know. I am unsure what to do next.”
That night, not trusting it, I closed the windows. The next morning, scrambling to get the kids out the door, my pocket dinged. Now, not only did I have solid evidence to debunk the Spontaneous Spatula Beep theory, I had an ally that wouldn’t quit.
“Last night didn’t hear anything and slept great. Too early to call it a trend.”
I confided that I had closed the windows. Then I sent back: “Let’s take it one day at a time.”
“The alarm owner may have closed the windows because it was a cooler night. Many variables at play.”
I had to admire not only the rigor of his science, but also his proactive, take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach. Whereas I might deal with something for months or even years- not Boris. There’s a lot to be said for that, International Dinner Time Zones be damned.