"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
June 30, 2014
What the (Beep) was That?
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Life is full of moments that are frustrating, funny, and instructive, and sometimes all three emotions can be rolled together into one big messy ball. We had one of those moments that culminated a few weeks ago, and we have been laughing and thinking about it ever since.

This was something that started out as being humorous, but then it became more and more frustrating until it was driving us crazy. The conclusion turned the situation humorous again, and then it was also instructive. Confused? Well, then I guess I’d better explain.

In January, we found that a friend of ours was in need of some housing assistance. For this purpose of this discussion, let’s call him Jim. Jim found himself without a place to live, and it looked like it would be a while before any housing opened up that was in his price range. Some mutual friends asked us if there was any way we could help Jim for “probably just a month — two at the most.”

At first we didn’t think it was possible, but then we started thinking about our basement. You can get to the basement through the house, but there is also a walk-out door that can be reached from the back yard.

Fluffy calculated that with just a few lock changes, we could set up a little apartment that would allow Jim to come and go as he pleased, and have his own entrance and his own key.

That’s not to say there would not be some inconvenience. Fluffy spent several days cleaning up the area, and we purchased a microwave so that Jim would have the ability to cook some food. Jim’s presence was going to make it more complicated to access our downstairs refrigerator and freezer, plus Fluffy’s tool room is also located in the basement. But it was only going to be for a month or so. Or so we were told.

In any case, Jim was grateful to have a place to stay, and by the end of January we had a temporary boarder living in the basement. And that’s how we started thinking of him — Temporary Boarder. That was the way we referred to him, at least at first.

By all accounts, Temporary Boarder was a pretty good tenant. He didn’t bother us too often, and he was quiet. He did drive us crazy because he never, ever left home. We had thought before he moved in that we could go downstairs and get things when he was gone. But no, he was perfectly satisfied to stay there all the time. We learned to live without our downstairs refrigerator, freezer, and food storage.

Living without our food storage and Fluffy’s tools was a hardship, but there was one habit that we thought was a little odd. Just after Temporary Boarder moved in, we started hearing an unfamiliar noise each morning at exactly 8:36 a.m. This was a high-pitched “beep-beep” that would sound exactly 60 times every morning.

It was not loud enough to really disturb us, but we would hear it if we were working around the house at that time. The sound seemed to be loudest in the part of the house that was just above Temporary Boarder’s bedroom. It was obviously an alarm clock.

At first this was rather amusing. But then as we continued to hear the beep every day of our lives, we found ourselves making more and more negative comments. “I cannot believe someone would let his alarm clock beep every single morning and never shut it off,” one of us would say. Then the other one would give a similarly snide response.

The chorus of beeps certainly did not ruin our lives, but they did generate a lot of uncharitable thoughts and words about our temporary tenant. We took to referring to him as the Laziest Man in America. (The capital letters are because the appellation became his name.) How lazy do you have to be to let your alarm clock run down instead of rolling over in bed to turn it off?

Our “one to two months” association with Jim soon turned into three months, and then into four. Finally about a month ago a housing unit became available, and Jim made preparations to pack up his possessions and move. We watched the calendar and counted down the number of days until our home would be beep-free once again.

Jim moved out on a Saturday. Because the next day was Sunday, we stayed in bed late and were just enjoying having our house back to ourselves. But then, at 8:36 a.m., we heard a familiar sound. “Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep…”

At first we thought we were hallucinating. Were we in the middle of a bad dream? Had Jim left his alarm clock hidden somewhere in the basement just to torment us? Was God playing a cosmic joke on us for thinking such nasty thoughts about another one of his children?

This was followed by several days of detective work. At 8:36 each morning, Fluffy would station himself somewhere in the house to try and track down the elusive beep. No, it wasn’t in the basement. No, it wasn’t on our second floor. No, it wasn’t in either of our offices.

Finally after about a week we isolated the noise to a backpack that had been left on the floor, next to the couch in our family room. We have a friend from church who is a professional “brain trainer,” and for a while she came over every day to run me through some mental exercises to try and get my post-coma brain back into fighting shape again.

In her backpack she had all kinds of toys, including a little electronic metronome that would count off a minute using a series of beeps. I’m not sure why the device would activate itself each morning at 8:36, but I guess that is just one of its tricks.

Our brain training started just about the time Jim moved in, but we have not done it for the past couple of months because our brain-trainer’s daughter got engaged, and she has been all involved in the upcoming wedding. She left her backpack on the floor next to the couch, and we had totally forgotten about it.

As I noted earlier, the postscript to this little incident has been a combination of both laughter and guilt. We spent nearly five months blaming someone for something that was totally unrelated to any of his behavior. The offending backpack has been moved to a more isolated area of the house — something that could have been done last January if only we had known it was the source of the offending beeps.

Little incidents like this remind me of why we are commanded not to judge others. Only God knows all of our individual thoughts and circumstances, and He is the only one who can see the whole picture and truly understand the purity of our motives.

Because our modern world is filled with devices that regularly beep at us, things in our house remind me on a regular basis that the Laziest Man in America isn’t as lazy as I thought he was.

For all I know, the reason he never left our basement was that he spent four and a half months building nuclear reactors out of toothpicks. One of these days, I’m probably going to learn that he single-handedly solved the energy crisis with the work he did in our basement.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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