The Wail of The Wraiths

There was a time when our houses were havens of peace where we could retire from a day’s slog in the salt mines or recover from our latest whipping in the slave pit, grab a bit of kai, watch a bit of telly and snatch forty winks.

But times have changed….

In the olden days “off” meant off and we could retire for the night secure in the knowledge that the appliances were slumbering soundly too. As we sank gratefully into our kapok mattresses and feather pillows we were serenaded by the pinging valves in the radiogram as it, too, took a well-earned break. The only things that would disturb us might be the ping of nails as the timbers relaxed after a hot day, the wail of a teething child or … things that go bump in the night.

The bumpers were usually quickly identified. A poorly secured window slamming shut in a sudden squall. The cat chasing a wascally wodent that was trying to nick some cheese. The other cat announcing that a pit stop was required by standing on our head or, even better, sitting on one’s chest in the sure knowledge that humans starved of air rarely fail to react.

When long-dead grandma’s picture mysteriously plummeted from its picture hook in the wee hours of the morning, the cause of the noise was quickly identified. All that remained were a few days spent drinking galleons of tea and sifting through the tea leaves to find the import of such an event while we talked in hushed voices.

Ah. The good old days.

Nowadays we have new household companions with delightful personalities of their own. These new appliances also like to “sleep.” But for them sleep means snooze and be ready to react like a dog startled from sleep. Off now means not off and not on.

And when they want our attention, they let us know in novel ways.

There’s the “peep, peep” of the starving cellphone that we were going to recharge during the evening. Each model has its own version of the “Feed me, Seymour” routine, and it usually starts an hour after we’ve gone to bed. They emit a sound at an interval specifically timed to allow us to relax back toward sleep after an initial “Hmmm, whazzat?”

There’s the breadmaker that wakes us up with the helpful beeping query “Would you like to add some fruit to that savoury loaf that I’m going bake and have ready for you in a couple of hours when you wake up… Ooops, did I disturb you?”

There’s the washing machine with the fancy gew-gaws that allow it to start up and do the washing ready for you to hang out in the morning before dashing out the door for another happy day in the salt mines. But don’t forget to turn the hot tap on or select cold wash because this critter sets up a caterwauling that penetrates solid rock if it thinks the dumb human has made a mistook.

My personal favourites are the appliances that have a definite will of their own. The microwave oven that decides to turn on for no apparent reason. In my case, the oven was merely announcing its impending retirement from the profession of microwave cookery with a view to becoming a cupboard. It got the first bit right when it finished heating something last Boxing Day and announced that things were “ready” by emitting an impressive BANG that had us all diving for a group hug underneath the dining table. Ah well, no more sleepless nights listening for that microwave oven trying to sneakily prepare its own midnight feasts.

A friend reports a novel new experience with these attention-demanding appliances. He was recently awakened at 4 a.m. by a shrieking noise in a distant part of the house. Thinking that the ringwraiths had finally nabbed Frodo, he rose nervously to investigate, regretting that staunch friends Strider, Gimli, Legolas and Co. weren’t camping nearby. Silence descended.

“Well, they must’ve eaten him, I suppose. Now back to counting Z’s.” Once more the ghostly wail burst forth. Fearing that Peter Jackson would soon be waking the neighbourhood by banging on the door to sign up a shrieker of such quality, a steady hunt began.

Patience is a rare commodity in any house at that time of the morning, but it was certainly called for to track down the intermittent ghostly wail. The cause? A seized bearing in a tiny CPU fan a couple of centimetres square in one of the household computers.

One Response to “The Wail of The Wraiths”

  1. Chris M says:

    Another of my favourites is the TV set that is too clever for its own good and thinks that because the Sky decoder on the SCART A/V input has rebooted at 3am it needs to turn on and play the Sky promo channel – normally advertising some very loud action movie! Either that or my living room is haunted by a TV-addicted ghost………

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