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The Pipeline Is Full

Ours is a culture that is increasingly saturated with messages. Everyone is trying to communicate everything to everyone else at the same time. We're bombarded with information at all times, and the result is that – instead of communicating more efficiently – we've grown conditioned to ignoring most of the messages as so much background noise.

Take a walk through an airport concourse. Two or three years ago, when the electric carts were still relatively new, they'd be swooshing past you and if the driver was concerned that a pedestrian was in the way, they'd press a button and the cart would emit a high-pitched beeping sound (beep-beep-beep) and people would know to move.

That was then. In the years since, the decision has been made that the cart should simply beep incessantly whenever it's moving at all. The result is a near-constant barrage of beeping whenever you're in the building. And the result of that is that people no longer hear the beeping at all. They just tune it out the way they tune out CNN Airport Edition or any of the other background noise as they shuffle along. Don't believe me? Just watch. As the airport employees drive their beepcarts along, they now holler out "Coming through" or "Excuse me, watch the cart" whenever they come upon a pedestrian who is in the way. The beeping no longer registers any meaning, so they have to specifically announce their presence – which is all the beeping was intended to do in the first place!

So, isn't it time to get rid of the beeping? It's not serving the purpose of moving people out of the carts' way; the cart drivers have resorted to good old fashioned street-smart knowhow to accomplish that, using their voices.

Seems like the beeping is obsolete now. Or, at the very least, it's now irrelevant to the cart experience. Can't we just pipe it through the public address system like the Muzak?