The other night, as we slept, a gigantic piece of ice plunged off our top roof to the one below, making a noise comparable to something made only by Boeing. It was an exercise in terror mixed with relief, the relief part being that with the falling off, there was just one less bit of a threat that the roof would collapse. Tell that to the cat who, fur on end, quaked in fear for an hour.

When one of our appliances makes an odd sound while performing its duty, my senses go into ALERT mode. If the washer bumps, the refrigerator thumps or the dishwasher makes a loud slurping sound, my ears tell me something is very wrong and chances are it’s going to cost a lot money.

Some noises send mixed messages. When the oil burner clicks on you know you are going to be warm, and you know that the price of oil just went up to $103 a barrel.

But it’s the car sounds that strike fear into the hearts of normally reasonable people

I remember the time we were off for vacation with four kids, beach stuff crammed in the back seat, when a loud, repetitive sound froze my husband and me into mute panic (repetitive sounds mean big trouble is right around the corner.)

We both prepared for a broken-down car full of wailing children and unfunded repair costs to our old rattle-trap Dodge. Then it turned out that one of the urchins had been banging on the roof, keeping time to some music on the radio. “Stop doing that,” we shrieked at the top of our lungs. We had never recovered from another, earlier time when the “off for vacation” scenario had turned into a nightmare worthy of a Steve Martin movie.

We were tooling along on a mid-summer day, bound for the coast of Maine where we would stay with friends, thereby not paying for a cottage rental. Three of our four tots were crammed into the back of the car along with sleeping bags and cases of Kool Aid and Spaghettios. I held our three-month-old infant on my lap in the front seat; there were no seatbelts in those days.

Just north of Hartford, the car made a grinding sound, and then bucked a few times. We stopped talking, each hoping the other didn’t hear it. Then we talked a lot, hoping we would drown out the sound that was gaining in volume.

Just below the Massachusetts border, our car made a few more hideous grinding, scraping, squealing noises and mere moments after we had pulled over to the side of the multi-lane speedway, it gasped its last, never to travel under its own power ever again. The urchins were sobbing, “Does this mean we can’t go to Maine?”

Relatives in Hartford came to the rescue and we were eventually on our way in my cousin Tim’s car, a very loud, noisy chariot that had once been totaled.

We all have the sounds we love/hate to hear. So why is the stove beeping?