Friday, July 31, 2009

Beep beep

I've not been sleeping well lately.

There's no good reason, although on Tuesday and Wednesday it could be explained by an air conditioning unit that wasn't working properly and producing something akin to cracking sounds. (I opened the utility closet to see that a pipe emerging from it was surrounded by ice and had developed two young icicles. That can't be good, can it?) And then there was last night.

I had been sleeping as deeply as I have in awhile when I was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by the sound of a persistent car horn. Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep...

My apartment dampens the noise from the outside fairly well, so the fact that I could clearly hear it in my place tells you how loud it was. (I must admit to being a light sleeper, though.) I expected this annoyance would go away soon enough but it didn't. I looked out the window and didn't see flashing lights on any cars in the lot, which indicated the noise wasn't coming from my complex. If not, where was the source?

I tried going back to sleep, but there was no chance that was happening with a honk per second. I thought maybe I was wrong and that it was an alarm from the strip shopping center. I looked out the window again and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. No doors were ajar, and the sound didn't seem as though it was from that direction.

Then I wondered if the alarm was coming from my car. From my apartment I didn't see any signs of it being broken into or having its alarm tripped, but I had to check, if merely to alleviate my concerns that I was the owner of the vehicle disrupting everyone's sleep. I slipped on my shoes and wandered outside. Nope. Not my car. Not any others out there.

Again I tried to fall asleep, but that incessant beeping could not be ignored. I looked out the rear window of my apartment again and saw a flashing light through the trees that was synchronized with the alarm. The car was in a different apartment complex that was nearby but not especially close. So it was at this point that I decided to take action.

The problem was that I lacked two critical pieces of information. First, who do I call? The city on my address is not the city where my taxes are sent. Do I call the suburb's police department or the Columbus cops? Of course I had no idea what either number was since this was not an emergency of the 911 variety. Second, how do I explain where the problem is? I don't know the address because it's not where I live.

I fired up the laptop and went to Google Maps. I entered my address, clicked the button for satellite display, and could easily identify the building. Now I had a location for the beeping car. I looked up the suburb's police department and found the non-emergency number. When I told them the address, they told me to call Columbus. I rang them and was told that someone else had notified them and that a police officer was just about on the scene. This was 5:15 a.m., 45 minutes after I first heard the alarm.

According to Google Maps, the lot with the beeping car was .7 miles by foot from my home. (It's not a straight line, for what it's worth.) How in the world no one over there, especially the owner, hadn't heard it and done something earlier mystified me, but whatever, I figured the issue would soon be resolved. When 6:00 a.m. arrived and the car was still unleashing its cry for help, I began to wonder what was up.

I looked out and saw the flicker of the red and blue police car lights through the trees. Clearly they were present. Could they just not reach the vehicle's owner? As I lay there weary, perturbed, and wide awake I started counting the beeps in the cycle. One hundred twenty honks sounded before a slight hiccup that indicated the repeating of a fresh set.

Finally, at 6:40 a.m., almost an hour and a half after the police arrived, it stopped. I strained to make sure that it really, truly was over. Making a conservative estimate, the car honked no fewer than 7800 times in the wee hours of the night. However restless tonight's sleep may be, I have to expect it will be more productive than what I lost during this minimalist automotive symphony.

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At 12:26 AM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

Oy! I wonder where the car's owner was. That would probably drive me bonkers!


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