Saturday, September 26, 2009

Search for alarm clock shows I may be out of time

According to a report in last week’s Daily Telegraph, the alarm clock may well be going the way of the dodo. Apparently more and more people are using their cellphones as alarm clocks – that’s in addition to their multi-use as cameras, access to e-mail and the internet and so on.

But I didn’t need to read that article to know that alarm clocks are hitting the skids.

I searched for one for months, yes months, a seemingly ordinary thing that has become harder to find than, well, VHS video tapes. Because yes, I do still buy those. I’m one of the few people left who doesn’t have a PVR, doesn’t see the point of one when my ancient dual view machine is still functioning, and yet has to record just about everything to accommodate a crazy schedule.

So yes, I can still find VHS tapes – although that does take perseverance – but alarm clocks are becoming just about impossible to buy. My search for an alarm clock wasn’t prompted by a reluctance to use my cellphone as an alarm clock. I recently acquired a new touchscreen cellphone with a 5MB camera – and my big bulky digital Nikon has barely seen the light of day since.

I’m all for small is big and I am just about umbillically attached to my technology. In fact, I love the alarm tone on my cellphone – it’s a cheery happy party-like ring and you wake up not groaning but smiling It’s a real “come on, let’s get up and party” type of ring tone. I wish more cellphones or, ahem, alarm clocks, would incorporate this fun tone in their repertoires. Instead, my search has been prompted by the plethora of SMSes that come to me throughout the night and pop up alarmingly early in the morning, disturbing my precious beauty sleep.

There are the usual suspects: my service provider sending me a note to tell me I have used more than half my free minutes and it’s only the 5th of the month, or again, my service provider sending me a little recording with dancing characters, letting me know about the latest, greatest specials on offer. Never mind the offers I receive to purchase discount furniture, discounted theatre tickets and to view property – all of which come cheerily bleeping through at odd hours of the morning.

Add to that the messages I receive from my friends, to whom, dear as they are, SMS etiquette does not seem to exist. I have had SMSes at two in the morning – from a friend who couldn’t sleep and was contemplating a job change in the dark and needed to tell me about it. Or another who knows that I don’t exactly keep normal hours and made a cartoon of a photo she had taken of me and sent it at midnight. Or the SMS I received, complete with picture, from another at 1am telling me she was just catching the midnight sun in some Arctic place. Then there are the 7am SMSes on a Saturday or Sunday asking if I would like to see a movie that night. 7am on a Saturday? Who could possibly be up at that time, never mind planning their evening?

So, my next solution was to turn the phone on to silent, but what do you know, the thing vibrates everytime a message comes through, and wakes me, and no amount of fiddling with buttons and controls seems to turn off that vibrate function and, believe me, I have gone through every menu and submenu on that phone.

Hence the search for a cheap, ordinary alarm clock. Finally, after weeks of searching I found a big ugly thing, rather primitive looking and without even a light you can touch should you be up at 3am turning on your cellphone just in case a really, really important message has come winging through the ether…

(Published in First Words, Sunday Independent, September 20 2009)

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