Seeking clarity amidst the clamor
Last updated 9/20/2019 at 1:21pm | View PDF
On Thursday morning, the alarms went off.
All of them.
Every cell phone. Every egg timer. Every theft alert in every Walgreens, Walmart, Best Buy and bank. In an instant, every man, woman and child was awash in the clanging, clicking, beeping, buzzing, trilling, chiming, whooping, squealing cacophony that blanketed the Earth.
Sump pump alarms sent homeowners scrambling to the basement and crashing through dusty cardboard boxes, wondering if maybe it wasn't time to start Marie Kondo-ing some of this old junk. Elevator alarms evoked such a jolt that passengers decided they ought to start taking the stairs (much to the delight of their spouses). Whining car alarms drove their owners to throw up their hands and walk where they needed to go, and the walks became strolls, and it turned out that strolls are actually very nice.
Outlook crashed, of course, under the weight of billions of notifications - wheezing a final, feeble "Ding!" as it went. But that was OK, because the most important conversations happened anyway, coordinated out of shared care for a common cause.
Church bells - many long out of use - sprang to life in unison. And the music drifting through the neighborhoods was sweet nectar to parched souls, and the people found themselves wandering into sanctuaries they hadn't entered in ages to visit an old friend.
Some of the alarms helped the people realize that, after all these years, it really was about time. And they picked up the phone or pen to call or write, while others went right on over there to confess how they'd felt for all these years. And in the urgency of the deafening din, many of them found that they suddenly had the courage to say the difficult things that needed saying, like "I love you" and "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" and "Goodbye."
When billions of pockets erupted with irksome pings that existed solely for their own sake, the people decided that maybe it didn't matter so much who had tagged them or liked that or retweeted the thing that What's-Her-Face had said. So they turned off the notifications and put the buzzing doodads away, and the quiet that followed was like a breath of fresh air on a still lake after months trapped in a noisy subway car.
On Thursday night, the alarms stopped as abruptly as they'd begun. Some of the people went back to business as usual, but most didn't. Most of them held onto what the alarms had taught them, and they slept very well that night - the first truly peaceful sleep in a long while. And on Friday morning they awoke gently to the singing of the birds.
- Peter Celauro of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected]