The Beep in the Basement

Written by ferry On the

I live in Philadelphia. And when you live in Philadelphia, you do not get a choice in who supplies your cable. Without naming names, this behemoth company dominates the market. And the customer service is sub par. In our old apartment, my husband spent many hours on the phone in a less-than-mindful rage with said cable company saying things like, “How do you people even get paid for your job!? It’s amazing to me that you are still in business!” Very embarrassing… Very reactive. Not a happy customer.

When we left the confines of Ben’s Squares (i.e. center city) I was more than thrilled to jump on the Verizon Fios bandwagon. I came to find out, to my surprise, that our house was already wired for Verizon (score!) so all I had to do was call the nice people to come turn it on and set up our one happy little television. We only have one, and that’s on purpose. Besides, who really needs a tv when we have all of our other devices these days??? After the nice lady in the black button down arrived (on time) and made our television “work” she showed me the little white box in the basement that feeds the power to the system – phone, internet, and tv. Perfect! Easy! 6abc News here I come. Bring on my PBS and the one show I will actually watch start to finish – Chopped.

Except, there was nothing perfect about it… At all. Within a few days I noticed this random “beep” coming from the basement. I mean really random – there was no rhyme or reason about it. There would be silence for long periods of time, and then, beeeep! It took me a few days to figure out where it was coming from because it happened so infrequently. Needless to say – the little white Verizon box was beeping. I called the nice lady who was in my house just days before and she told me to unplug the battery and plug it back in. So I tried that. It worked! No more beeps. Phew! Crisis averted. We can love our tv people again. And then, beeps.

The good news is, despite the beeps, the tv was working. I decide now to go to the online “chat” people to help me through the Verizon website.
Forty-five minutes of tippety-typing back and forth, and nothing is resolved. I’m pretty frustrated. I just want to see George ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz in his cute little bow-ties tell me when the next arctic-polar-vortexy-thing is coming so I know if I need an extra scarf around my neck without being interrupted by a case of the beeps. I take matters into my own hands like a true Italian. (Where’s the duct tape?) I jiggle the battery, hold down a few buttons on the box, and it stops. I feel like I’m a kid again using the secret code to beat Contra on my Nintendo. *Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.* Within 24 hours the beeps return. With every beep, I’m more angry. It goes something like this, “Beep” Thoughts: “Jese! What is with that thing?” Hands go up in the air and the heat of annoyance rises up into my face. Then, silence. I go back to stirring my oatmeal as it bubbles on the stove.

Then, I’m sitting down to a nice breakfast, my mind settled and happy… I’m smelling the cinnamon, tasting the sun and the rain in my oats… Savoring the cooked apple pieces and squishy raisins… and, “beep!” My shoulders hike up, the smells disappear, and I’m chewing my anger rather than my breakfast. My story starts up again: “It’s just another thing I need to be taking care of that I don’t have time for. Add it to the list, Jenny! How do people have time to DO everything that needs to be done? Why do I STINK at life? I am so BAD at keeping on top of things! The beep is BAD. This moment is BAD. I am BAD.” Somehow in my mind an innocuous vibration entering my ear drum came to mean that I was FAILING as a person. That was September. A few months have passed and I am happy to report that the beep and I are living happily together as housemates. It took a few weeks (many, actually!) of falling into the same negative thought loop for me to realize how ridiculous it was that I was allowing this neutral sound in my environment to upset me so much. So I decided to practice what I preach – notice that I am triggered by this “thing” in my environment, and see if I can adjust my relationship to it. Yes, right… Mindfulness!

I have allowed the beep to become a bell of mindfulness. When I hear it, I pause, take a breath, and notice how I am feeling and what I am thinking in that moment. The beep “beeps” multiple times a day, whenever it feels like it. Some days are quite beeptastic while other days the beep is more subdued. Could I get back online or on the phone for a few hours and figure out how to stop the beeping? Probably. Do I think that’s a good use of my time? Probably not. I’m about to send this post to my husband to ask for his feedback. I guarantee his response will be a genuinely befuddled, “There’s a beep in the basement?” Until next time my friends, enjoy your moments and your beeps.