Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rise, Not Shine

It certainly seemed like a good idea. My wife was in need of a new phone, as the battery was not holding a charge. Normally, we would just replace it and toss the old one in a box. But when mine went through a similar midlife crisis, it happened to coincide with my bedside clock breaking. Rather than get a new one, I took my old phone and its stand, and downloaded a snappy clock program. It now sits happily next to my pillow, giving me a high tech display to stare at at 3AM when I can't sleep.

In her case, however, there was one small complication. In addition to an alarm clock, she has a white noise machine on her nightstand (she says I snore; I call it deep breathing). Having tried a number of models over the years, I eventually got her a combination device that goes whoooshhhhh in the night and BRRRRING in the morning. It works fine, but it's not the most user-friendly box; more than once the alarm has gone off and she has jabbed at it, only to hit the wrong button. Suddenly the sound of waves fills our room, as I groggily awaken thinking we're in the middle of a tsunami in the Philippines.

I did some checking, and sure enough there were some nice speaker stands for her old phone, as well as several clock/noise apps. Since Christmas was coming, I thought the pair might make an interesting present for her. (Some of you might ask why I thought it was a good idea to get her a glorified AC adapter and computer program as opposed to jewelry; please don't go there.)  

I eventually chose a Sony device with good reviews. When she opened it, she looked at it and said, "Uh, thanks? This is for?" I explained my reasoning: her old machine was difficult to program, it was not terribly attractive, she would soon have a surplus phone, this was an elegant upgrade to that. I was excited; she was suspicious. As one of the kids said with a grin, "I think this is a present Mom will have to appreciate over time."

It took a few weeks before we got around to replacing her phone, freeing up her old one. I spent a few days testing apps, eventually settling on one that seemed the best. That evening I went upstairs, moved her existing device to the other side of her table, and installed the new setup. She walked in and eyed it warily. "C'mon," I said brightly, "I'll show you how to use it. We'll even keep your old one for backup!" She gamely listened to me explain it, smiled tightly, got her pajamas on and got into bed. When she was done reading, she turned up the sound and turned out her light.

Next morning I awoke a few minutes after the alarm should have gone off, but didn't. Turned out the power saving function on the charging stand had kicked in, and disabled the phone. Second night we awoke to an alarm. She stabbed at the phone, but it wouldn't quiet. I jumped up and tried, but I couldn't silence it either. She left me there trying to figure it out. I eventually realized it was the old clock next to it ringing; we hadn't set the phone correctly. Third night I turned over at 2AM to see nothing; I hadn't disabled all the screen saver functions and it went blank. And on it went. The controls were hard to see. The screen was too bright. After a week of trying and tweaking, I threw in the towel. I returned the original device to its place closet to her pillow, and prepared to return the unit to its maker.

But a sudden reversal of fortune: just after I printed out a return slip, she happened to remark that it would be great if we had a radio in the kitchen. Wait! The speaker stand was perfect for that! I download a radio app, plugged it in, and NPR wafted gloriously over the stove. It was a winning present after all: it just turned out to a case of right device, wrong application. As for waking up, well, we're back to where we started. And I have simply resigned myself to dealing with the occasional tidal wave.


Marc Wollin of Bedford hasn't needed an alarm in years. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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