Monday, August 28, 2006

With bells on

What does anyone have against bells? Why, in every possible application, are real bells being replaced by electronic sounds?

We hang onto an early touch-tone phone because when it rings, it actually rings, with the lovely warm sound of a brass bell. It does not bleat, it does not warble, and I've never had the urge to dash it against the wall.

Our doorbell is schizophrenic. A hideous little buzzer sounds in the basement, but upstairs, in the dining room, is a grand old clock with four tubular bells, which doubles as the doorbell. It's resonant, grand, and makes me eager to see who or what has turned up on the doorstep--even Jehovah's Witnesses.

The kitchen timer is a beeper now, and so are the microwave and the alarm clock. Oddly, the toaster oven is a tinkly old-fashioned "ding". The carillon at the train station is a recording of a carillon. Hmph!

Oddest to me is the warning signal at the train crossing near our station. It's truly important to give people a clear, audible warning not to cross the tracks when a train is approaching. It's not a mechanical bell, though.
It's a recording of a train warning bell. There are two ways you can tell. First, it sometimes cuts off in mid "ding" when the crossing gates go up. And second, on wet, squelchy days like today, it starts out on a low tone and then rises in pitch, like a tape being sped up, or a phonograph record being started from a standstill. It makes a warped, bilious sound. Do honest clanging train bells really fail so much that they needed to be replaced with fake ones?

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