Last night, my wife and I were getting ready to go out for a date night. Just a quick dinner, at our favorite casual place, which is just a mile away. I dropped my daughter off at a friends for a sleep over, and when I got home my wife and son were in the kitchen. They were quiet, and my son was clearly troubled by something.

He was hearing a high pitched beeping noise. It was like an alarm clock, or the coffee maker, he said. Repeating over and over. My wife said she couldn’t hear it. I stopped, stood still and listened hard. I couldn’t hear it either.

May son moved around and could hear it in certain rooms, but not in others. My wife and I couldn’t hear it at all, no matter where we went. I even went into the basement, and nothing.

My son was upset that A) we couldn’t hear this, and B) he didn’t want to be alone, which he’s usually fine with, in short bursts. He knows how some people can hear frequencies others can’t from recent projects at school. So, he thought he was hearing something problematic or scary that we couldn’t.

Panic Mode, Engaged

Was something wrong with my son’s hearing? He has one of those headphones that has a microphone on one side, and the speaker on the other. Not cause we make him work in a call center, but because of Fortnight. He plays a lot of that game. Has it been too loud, causing a ringing in his ear? Did he hit his head? How many fingers am I holding up? Is your vision blurry?

Or was it something wrong with the house that only he could hear? We had some minor electrical work done to the house recently. Was something mis-wired? Was it simply an old toy in a box in the basement that had shifted to trigger a button, or a dead battery causing oddities? If so, where was it in the basement?

Was this a fire danger? Was there some old military ordinance buried under our home that would activate if there was a fire? Would this trigger some kind of chain reaction that would destroy the entire town? Was there an ancient burial ground under the home with some sort of curse that needed this exact set of circumstances to trigger an unholy zombie uprising?

I’ve been told I have an active imagination.

Of course I’m embellishing a bit here, but a lot of this ran through my head as we were all standing worried and quiet in the kitchen and listening intently for the mystery sound.


We all moved and listened, and moved and listened. This lasted maybe ten minutes. Finally, I heard it. It was very strange, as I could only hear it in that exact spot. So we knew it was in the kitchen. My son said for me to open the coat closet door, and for my my wife to open the pantry door. Nothing.

My son looked around, walked over to the trash pail. He used his foot to open the lid (it’s the kind with the foot tab / open lid). Bingo, we all heard it. He opened and closed the lid repeatedly. While closed, no one could hear it, while open, everyone could. Like that scene with the sliding-glass door in Ace Ventura.

It was the electric meat thermometer that had recently stopped working. I left it by the grill a couple days ago. My wife threw it in the trash that afternoon. It must have been jostled enough to begin the beeping. We were all relieved that we found the problem, and that it was mostly harmless.

We congratulated our son on the good detective and problem solving work. And he was clearly relieved.

The Dog Knew

Our dog was acting weird since mid-afternoon. She stayed outside more than usual, and didn’t even want to eat dinner. She ran out of the door when I opened it to take my daughter to that sleep over. She loves to go for rides, but this was different. Also, she had some back or leg problems a couple weeks ago. She was stiff, and didn’t want to climb the stairs. But all that cleared up really quickly. But was that injury and this odd behavior related?

My wife then made the connection. The garbage pail (with the high pitched noise making broken thermometer) is just a couple feet from the dog dish. The dog was hearing this since that point in the mid-afternoon when my wife threw the thermometer out. The dog was acting nutty ever since then, but no one made the connection.

I took the thermometer out of the trash and removed the battery. Everyone went back to normal in seconds, even the dog.


We moved around to find the noise. We put two and two together to understand the dogs odd behavior. All this while, I was worrying. Thinking about very bad outcomes from the mystery beeping, as I mentioned above.

Brene Brown mentions this imagining of worst-case scenarios is a common occurrence based on her research in the book Daring Greatly. I think this is human nature and I don’t really understand it. I need to re-read that bit.

I was trying to be mindful through all this. Focusing on the concern my son was having, and finding the root cause of the problem. Concern is infectious and my wife and I were trying to keep ourselves and our son calm.

I learned a bit with this experience. I learned about my son’s concerns and problem solving skills. I practiced being calm when concerned. I think it is informing my son to do the same.

We all had a good laugh afterwards.