Life Without a Doorbell

A photo of the "Bell board" seen on the television program "Downton Abbey"

Photo by author, taken at “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition”, New York City, May 2018.

Shortly after we moved into our new place, it didn’t take very long for us to figure out that the doorbell didn’t work. All it took was one seemingly unhappy tradesperson standing at the door for an unspecified period of time, waiting for us to answer a door that didn’t actually ring.

Fortunately, after he knocked (the universal back-up measure when doorbells don’t seemingly elicit any kind of reaction), we sprang into action and answered the door immediately. When the tradesperson saw us test the doorbell to confirm that it actually did not work, he understood and was a good sport about it.

Ever the good Canadians, we tripped over ourselves with a chorus of apologies. To ensure that we didn’t waste anyone else’s valuable time, we immediately put up a sign saying, “Please knock loudly, doorbell doesn’t work.”

To live without a doorbell during the pandemic didn’t seem like a huge loss, at least at first. Obviously, we wouldn’t be having friends drop by to check out the new digs for some time, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

Given that we were contemplating building a garage as well as installing a back-up generator, both of which requiring the presence of an electrician, we didn’t make the doorbell a huge priority. We just assumed that we could piggy back the doorbell on one of those jobs, rather than set up a house call for just the doorbell.

To me, having no doorbell actually brought with it a bit of a sense of relief. Back when I lived in the city, there were days when I would have liked to yank the doorbell out of the wall for the revolving door of aggressive door-to-door salespeople that rudely ignored my “no peddlers or solicitors” sign. But thankfully, a provincial law outlawing door-to-door sales calls of that nature ended that practice before I performed my first doorbellectomy.

In the new place, a doorbell would have been more than handy especially when Canada Post or one of the parcel delivery services would drop off something requiring a signature. The sign that we created worked, but it still had its limitations.

We have been told that our house is pretty solid and well built, which seems supported by the fact that sound doesn’t travel well through the house. When my partner is working from home in the master bedroom, in the opposite corner of the house, he can barely hear a knocking at the side door. That leaves it to me, working in the spare bedroom that is right above the door, to bounce up and down from my office chair like a jack-in-the-box to keep an eye on anyone arriving in the driveway. In my working days, if I was on a conference call, delivering a technical soliloquy, it was a bit of a challenge to keep an eye on the door at the same time, but I made it work.

It was when we were building our garage that it got really confusing. Around that time, by some coincidence, we had a number of parcels delivered to cut back on shopping trips due to the pandemic. But given the construction noise, we couldn’t tell the difference between the sound of hammers and the sound of knocking at the door. Needless to say, there were a number of false alarms, running to the door, only to realize that no one was there, but the bright side is that we definitely got our cardio in around that time.

Similarly, when we called for the occasional pizza delivery we’d have to draw straws to determine who would be the one to hover by the kitchen window to know for sure when they had arrived. Sadly, one insanely loud car commercial coming from the TV in the living room was enough to muffle a door knock.

It was in that moment of putting our lives on hold, waiting for delivery people, that we realized the extent to which we had taken for granted our doorbells over the years. It is true what they say about how you don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone. Who knew that this could apply to device as a simple as a doorbell as well?

When we finally got our electrician to have a look at it, his assessment was that whole doorbell mechanism was dead, the push button at the door, the wiring, the chiming unit itself, the works. Given the “surprise” repairs we have undertaken since our arrival, why did this not surprise us?

Despite the logistical challenges of the repair, the new parts that we purchased and the many persistent attempts to get the mechanism working, a permanent solution was not found with the existing infrastructure. With the electrician bill climbing with each passing block of time, we decided to cut our losses and to look into alternatives.

Our solution was to install a wireless doorbell on both doors. In total, it took about 15 minutes to set up and we were more than delighted with the results, complete with a different chime assigned to each of the two doors.

The first time that we were waiting on a pizza delivery, we couldn’t have been more delighted as we waited in the living room, like normal people do. When the doorbell rang, I ran to the door and greeted the delivery person, like normal people do.

Upon accepting the pizza and tapping my debit card, as we waited for the payment approval, I enthusiastically gushed at how she was the very first person to ring our new doorbell, trying to impart a sense of grandeur like she was bestowed an honour like the Order of Canada. She didn’t seem nearly as thrilled or impressed as I was, but that was OK. We knew that this was a momentous occasion.

The sound of our new electronic doorbell was heralding in a new era. After a full year of living without a doorbell (among a strange list of other things that didn’t work), we were one more home repair ahead in the journey to a normal, fully functional home.

Living without a doorbell was not a life changer, but it was a gentle reminder of how something so simple and convenient can make a huge difference in the quality of life of everyday living.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

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