Kim has a new bedside clock these days. I’m not sure how long it’s going to last.
For the last few years she has had something called a Chumby, which sounds either Australian or cheerfully obscene or both, there often being just the finest of lines between those two things. I’ve always thought Australia would be a fun place to visit that way.
But the Chumby was neither Australian nor obscene. It was just a pleasant little electronic box about a cubic hands-breadth in size, with a screen occupying the entire front face. Originally you could download apps for the Chumby and have them cycle through on the screen, but the Chumby business model was apparently flawed and the apps all disappeared some months ago, leaving it just a clock radio.
And then that died too.
There was a period of mourning, which I understood completely. I’d feel the same way if my clocks went belly-up.
I actually have two bedside clocks. One is a little rectangular alarm clock with big red LED numbers that my grandmother gave me when I was in high school, which means that clock has outlived her by nearly three decades now. I’ll miss that one when it goes, purely for the sentimental attachment, though I don’t use it as an alarm clock anymore because it has the world’s most annoying alarm – an insistent buzz saw of a sound that would drive Ghandi to take up the axe.
So a few years back my daughters gave me something called a Clocky, which is a 60’s-turquoise plastic thing about the size of a George RR Martin paperback, with an LCD display on the front and large white plastic wheels at either end. It has a tweedly little alarm that manages to wake me up without destroying my nervous system every morning the way the other clock would do, and if you set it right it will also take off on those wheels and force you to look for it in order to shut the alarm off. Other than a few test runs on this I must confess I’ve left it stationary. It’s hard enough to get up in the morning without frantically chasing an inanimate object across your bedroom. But I’ll miss this one too when the time comes, for many of the same sentimental reasons.
So I was sympathetic about the Chumby.
After a while, though, Kim got tired of not having an alarm clock and sent away for a new one. It arrived this week.
Imagine if you will something that looks like a cross between a lava lamp and a nuclear cooling tower. The actual clock face – the part with the display that tells you what time it is – is only about one inch by two, way down toward the bottom, and it shows the time with a dot-matrix of orange circles that looks straight out of the dark ages of computing. The rest of the thing is a white plastic conical section about a foot high and about half that in diameter at the bottom, that expands out a bit before narrowing to about four inches at the truncated top.
It’s impressively large for something that is supposed to sit on your nightstand and share space with all the other nonsense that accumulates on one’s nightstand. Perhaps it is designed to get you to clean off that clutter. I don’t know. Mostly it just forces you to shove stuff aside.
Part of the reason it is so big is that there is a light bulb inside of it. I know. Someone probably won an award for that.
There is an actual scientific purpose behind this, it turns out. Apparently someone did some research and found that that darkness is bad for you if you want to wake up.
This finding certainly set me back. I would never have guessed.
The theory behind putting a light bulb into the cooling tower alarm clock is that it will provide you with the light you need to make waking up a joyful and painless transition from sleep to wakefulness. No, seriously – that’s what it said in the manual. The theory here is that the light will turn itself on at the lowest possible setting about half an hour before your alarm is set to go off, and it will get gradually brighter, easing your mind into consciousness slowly until by the time the alarm actually sounds you will merely slap the Off button and bound out into the day with a cheerful smile and a song in your heart.
That’s the theory.
So far what has actually happened is that somewhere around the midpoint of this cycle the room becomes uncomfortably bright and you end up wanting to throw something hard at it so that the light will go out and you can get those last few precious moments of sleep in before the day begins in earnest, except that the thing looks like a cooling tower and you have this subconscious reluctance to throw anything at it in case you crack it and have to evacuate everyone in a three-state radius before they start to glow.
Of course if they start to glow gradually then I suppose you wouldn’t need the light bulb after all, and so we come full circle.
It’s been less than a week so far, so we’ll see how it works out.