Tuesday, September 18, 2012

a more sensible clock

I don't think alarm clocks are very sensible.  That is, I understand that they sometimes serve a necessary purpose, but I don't think they're formatted very sensibly.  Tired brains -- at least my tired brain -- need some context for the time to have any meaning.

When I was in high school, I never managed to wake up to my alarm, and my mom would inevitably come up to my room and say, in her exasperated-by-trying-not-to-sound-like-it tone, "Honey, it's 5:15 now."  Assuming I woke up enough to hear her, I'd think to myself, "Why on earth would Mom wake me up at 5:15 to tell me the time?  I don't want to know the time.  I want to sleep."  Later (sometimes much later) when I was fully awake, I would realize that 5:15 was only fifteen minutes before seminary started, so, when my mom told me it was 5:15, what she really meant was "you only have fifteen minutes to get ready for school, eat breakfast, and get to the church."  But that's not what she said, and my brain was too tired to supply the context and make this all make sense.

The same thing happened this morning.  When my cell phone alarm went off at 7, I thought to myself, "Why on earth is my phone ringing to let me know that it's 7?  I don't care that it's 7.  In fact, the last thing I want to know at 7 am is the fact that it's 7 am."  However, being significantly less sleep-deprived now than I was in high school, I was able to stay awake long enough to figure it out -- the reason my alarm was ringing was because I needed to get up, since my co-worker was picking me up to go to the airport in an hour.

But why can't an alarm just tell you that, instead of making your brain do all the work?  I'm not saying I expect my alarm clock to be psychic or anything -- in fact, that would be rather frightening.  But I don't think it would be too hard to have two inputs for an alarm clock: the time you need to be ready, and the amount of time you want to give yourself to do so.  Then, when your alarm clock went off, it could just give you a countdown of how many minutes you had to get ready.

Perhaps people would also be less likely to use the snooze alarm if, instead of just seeing a context-less time, they saw their time counting down.  We've surely all seen enough movies and TV shows with countdown clocks on bombs that this would strike a little helpful fear into snoozers' hearts.

Of course, there probably is an alarm that already has this function, but I don't understand why it's not a standard feature.  It just makes sense to me.

And if any of you ever have to wake me up in person, please keep this principle in mind -- I need more explanation than you might think.  Don't just tell me, "Hey, there's a fire!"  I'm more likely than not to assume you're talking about wildfires in Idaho.  And if there's not a fire (or free icecream, or something else of equal importance), maybe you should just let me sleep.