Wednesday, July 6, 2011


While talking the other day to my delightful, Scottish friend, Alice, we happened to discuss the varied and complicated rituals, that people practice when setting their alarm clocks.  I found this conversation interesting for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is because, if I understand correctly, Alice doesn't actually utilize any of these complicated rituals. I think she just sets her clock for the correct time, and her alarm, for the hour she needs to wake trickery involved.  The second reason is because Alice speaks with a Scottish accent, and, of course, whatever words are spoken with a Scottish accent, are ALWAYS  more interesting.
Now, my husband and I, each have our own alarm clocks in our bedroom, but we never adhere to a simple and straight-forward practice such as Alice's.  Instead, we each use our own, very sophisticated and intricate method, to ensure that we will always be up precisely when we need to be, and with plenty of time to spare, in order to get ready for the day.
I have the simpler method of the two.  I set the clock 10 minutes fast, and my alarm about a half an hour earlier, than I  need to wake up.  This allows me the luxury of hitting the snooze button, multiple times, at 9 minute intervals, before I HAVE to get out of bed.  Then, once I have awakened, I know I will never be late, because I have cleverly set the clock 10 minutes fast, thus fooling myself into being ready 10 minutes early!!!  Sadly, this actually only works in theory, because, having set the clock myself, I am always aware of my own trickery and cannot be deceived by it.
My husband has a far more complicated ritual, and so, of course, needed a far more complicated alarm clock, than the one I have. He got his clock from a store called "Brookstone" which sells fascinating gadgets of all kinds. These gadgets are the cool kinds that  you only purchase when you can spend pretend money, like the $50 gift certificate to the store, that my husband used....but NEVER when you have to spend any real money, the kind that you have earned yourself, by having to perform actual work.   His clock has two alarms that you can set for different times,  with sounds that first ring quietly, and then whose volume increases to a frightening crescendo should you foolishly choose to ignore them.   It also includes a feature which allows the clock to RESET ITSELF automatically if you should accidentally unplug it, or experience a power failure.  This is particularly helpful, because, since the clock is so complicated that I have a lot of trouble even turning off the alarm, I regularly yank the cord out of the wall , in order to shut it off.
Now my husband's ritual includes setting his clock for some random time, several hours different from the actual time that it is, and then having his alarm go off a couple of hours earlier, than need be.  This, of course, tends to create a lot of confusion about whether it is time for him to wake up or not,  because it requires an extraordinary amount of figuring to calculate out what the actual time is.  To simplify things he just rolls over, and asks me to look at my clock for the correct time; a practice that does not endear him to me.
As hard as it is to believe though, despite all his complicated efforts, he occasionally, still oversleeps! This occurred the other day when I was working at the computer.  First, his own alarm began to ring, with its increasingly loud volume, and then my alarm went off... and not in unison, but at separate intervals. I called upstairs to Dave to wake up, and he hit the snooze on both of the alarms.  A very short nine minutes later the alarms began to ring again.  Since Dave was only getting up to await an early morning phone call, I decided, with amusement, to see how long it would take for Dave to turn off all the alarms on his own.  The 33 minute mark had passed, and still Dave showed no sign of weakening by giving in to the alarms' incessant ringing.  Now, knowing that Dave would be making a significant contribution to science if I pursued this research further, I hypothesized as to why the alarms were failing to produce their desired result.  I decided it was because he had become accustomed to the noise, and would need a new sound, thrown in to the already maddening din, in order to wake up.  I experienced my "Aha!" moment, and ran excitedly on tiptoes to get his cell phone.  With the stealth of a Navy Seal, I crept up the steps, while muffling my laughter, and placed his cell phone directly next to his ear, on his pillow.  Then I raced back down the stairs again, and picked up the house phone and called him.  I was filled with glee, as I awaited his reaction.  I waited some more...and the phone went to voice mail.  I couldn't believe it!!!  How could he sleep through his cell phone ringing, AND the other two alarms?  I decided to call again.  This time the call went immediately to voice mail.  I puzzled over this development, and hung up and attempted to try again when, unexpectedly, the phone in my hand rang, startling me.  With heart racing I guiltily ran upstairs to give Dave the phone, thinking it was the call he was waiting for.  I ran into the bedroom, and tried to hand it to him. He explained he was already on his cell phone though, so I went ahead and answered it for him.  The caller was Dave who, half-asleep, had been attempting to return his missed call.  Now, confused by all the noise from the alarm clocks, he was trying to fathom why I was one who had answered, and was presently in the same room with him speaking to him on our home phone.   I decided to conclude my experiment.
I feel that, while my hypothesis about a third sound being needed to wake up a very sleepy individual was, in fact, correct,  it might be somewhat challenging to replicate.  The only really conclusive information I have to offer is that people with Scottish accents are apparently, much more sensible about their wake up rituals, than Dave and I, I really like the way that they speak.  Here's hoping that your morning wake ups are all a little bit more Scottish, than ours!!


  1. You can do as I do. Sleep with the cell phone under the edge of the pillow. Set the alarm (with a snooze setting, of course). If the phone rings, ignore it, if it's a text, ignore it, and when the alarm goes off, try to remember how many times you can continue to hit the snooze before you actually have to get up. With it being somewhat under the pillow, no one but I hears it. Works great for me. I do get that rare nudge when I fail to awake on time.

  2. I forgot to mention I have been waiting for a blog from your prolific series "Fireflies and Tuna Cans". Thanks. I love these. You guys are beautiful, and funny.

  3. Great system T.! ...and thanks for the kind words!

  4. I too await your words and wonder to myself when is the book coming out ???

  5. i wish...that would be so exciting!!!! thanks for the kind words.