If my husband were still alive, I’m sure he would have been one of the first people in line to buy one of those Ring doorbells that does everything from show you who’s at your door and allow you to talk to them (even if you’re away vacationing in Hawaii), to opening the door and handing them drinks.
I don’t know why, but my husband always was fascinated with doorbells. When I once asked him why, he said it was because it took a real ding-dong to appreciate another one.
One family we used to visit had the Westminster chimes for their doorbell, which he loved so much, he’d use any excuse to go over there and ring it. I, however, tried to avoid visiting this family during the winter months because by the time their doorbell played its entire tune, my lips were frozen to my teeth.
I remember when we bought our first home and the doorbell just went “ding dong,” how disappointed my husband was. He said he wanted something unique, something classy, something that would make the people who rang it say, “Wow, now that’s what I call a really cool doorbell!”
My father, big help that he was, happened to mention to my husband that he’d seen a gizmo that could be programmed to play up to 50 different tunes, such as Christmas carols, birthday songs, and even “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” and then be hooked up the doorbell.
My husband’s eyes grew so wide upon hearing that bit of news, he ended up looking like an owl.
So, as a surprise, my parents bought him the doorbell song-programming gadget for Christmas. The only problem was, it was in the form of a kit where each note had to manually be programmed one by one into the mechanism by connecting wires in distinct patterns.
In other words, to program all 50 songs probably would take about 20 years.
When my husband unwrapped the gift and saw what it was, he was so excited, I thought he’d received a box full of cash. But as soon as he opened it and looked at all of the wires and the 15-volume set of instructions, his expression transformed into one of total confusion…with more than a touch of panic.
“Don’t worry,” my dad, who loved to work on projects, said. “Just let me know which song you want first and I’ll program it for you, then I’ll hook it up to your doorbell.”
After much deliberation, my husband chose (no big surprise) the Westminster chimes.
Three weeks later, my dad still was trying to program that one song. And every time he tested it to see how the Westminster chimes were progressing, the tune sounded so off-key, even my parents’ cat covered its ears.
Not long thereafter, the musical doorbell kit mysteriously disappeared from my dad’s workbench, never to be seen or mentioned again. Whenever we asked about it, Dad would change the subject. I still suspect, however, that the hole he was seen digging in his rock garden one night probably wasn’t to plant some really big tulip bulbs as he’d claimed it was.
I hate to admit it, but when we were building our current house, I was the one who bought the doorbell for it.
My husband, connoisseur of doorbells that he was, had wanted to make that all-important decision, so when I announced I’d already bought it, he was understandably disappointed.
“I hope you got one that plays something like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” he said.
But the truth was, I’d been penny pinching at the time and
had grabbed a doorbell that was on a half-price clearance table at the hardware
store. And for the decorative box that covered the mechanism on the wall, I
selected another half-price item, a plain oak one.
MY STEAMPUNK CLOCK
AND DRAB DOORBELL
The contractor who was in charge of all the electrical work on our new house installed the doorbell, but my husband and I were too busy packing and moving stuff to pay much attention to it.
So it wasn’t until the house nearly was completed and someone came to visit that we heard the doorbell for the first time…“Bzzzzzzz! Dong! Clunk!…Bzzzzzzz! Dong! Clunk!”
My husband and I just stared at each other. It was the worst sound we’d ever heard – kind of like a giant bee getting clubbed to death.
“What the hell was that?” my husband asked.
“I think it was our doorbell,” I said.
“Why on earth would you buy something that sounds that bad?”
“Well, how was I supposed to know what it sounded like? I couldn’t very well test it when it was still in the package in the store, could I?”
“Even your father’s out-of-tune Westminster chimes sounded better than that!” he said.
So for over a year, my husband gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes whenever someone rang our doorbell. Finally, my aunt and uncle came to visit one afternoon. When they rang the doorbell, my husband groaned and said, for about the 150th time, “I really hate that doorbell!”
My uncle heard his remark and, being a talented jack-of-all-trades, said, “Let me check it out for you. It doesn’t sound right!”
He grabbed a step-stool and removed the wooden box from the doorbell’s mechanism, then started to laugh. “Whoever installed this, installed it upside down! It’s probably donging when it should be dinging!”
“What about the annoying buzzing?” my husband asked him.
“Well, unfortunately, I think that’s in the transformer.” My uncle reinstalled the doorbell in the correct position and then went outside to push the button to test it. “Bzzzzzz! Ding Dong!”
“Hey! At least we have both a ding and a dong now!” I said.
My husband still looked less than pleased that it wasn’t playing something like Bohemian Rhapsody. It obviously was going to take much more than just a long-lost “ding” to ever make him truly happy about the doorbell.
To this day, I still have that same doorbell and it still sounds the same...but with slightly more buzzing.
And every time someone rings it, I think of my husband and I smile.
However, I’ve always had the urge to sneak into my dad’s old flower garden and start digging. I have the sneaking suspicion I just might find the skeletal remains of that doorbell gizmo with the programmable tunes.
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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: email@example.com