September 2, 2012

Bells heard less these days

What’s blue and goes ding-dong? Answer: An Avon lady at the North Pole. That’s the kind of joke you hear from your kids. What do you get when you cross a church bell with a bumblebee? Answer: A humdinger. So much for the juvenile humor. 

My friend Les Bradford and I got to talking recently about bells. When we were young, there were bells everywhere. Not so much these days.

We have the handheld bell my wife Kaye’s mother used to call her students in to her one-room school. I saw an old dinner bell on top of a house while I was doing a recent farm interview in Champlain.

When it was time for a fire drill at our schools, a loud bell rang and we reacted instantly. Nowadays, you might hear a totally different kind of alert sound. Les said he was shopping and suddenly a buzzing sound filled the air. He asked a clerk what it was. 

“Oh, that’s just a fire alarm,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “We get them all the time. Just don’t pay any attention to it.”

He’s a safety nut and always makes sure the emergency exits are well-marked and accessible. He once asked the desk clerk at a hotel what the fire alarm sounded like in case it went off during the night. 

“I have no idea,” answered the man. “But you’ll know it when you hear it.”

We have heard fire alarms in hotels and motels. We have rushed outside, only to look back and see families gawking out of their windows to watch the fire trucks approach. That happened to Kaye and me at a multi-story motel in another state. Let’s say there were 300 guests that night. When the loud buzzer sounded, we rushed outside and waited. Only about 10 others joined us in the parking lot. We were aghast to see people hanging out of top floor windows hoping to see something exciting. Indeed. One young man in our group hollered up to the woman in the window: “OK, lady, you can jump now!”

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