Nagged by devices
March 16, 2018
by Ivan Raconteur

Like many people who live on their own, I have become accustomed to coming and going as I please and doing things on my own schedule without someone telling me what to do every five minutes.

If I needed that kind of controlling environment, I suppose I could go out and get married and at least get some benefit out of the deal.

I’ve noticed lately that despite living by my own rules, I find myself being told what to do a lot more often than I would like.

Now, however, it is devices rather than people that are being so demanding.

The ones that irritate me the most are the ones that don’t offer a simple choice to turn off the alarm.

My clothes dryer is like that.

When the clothes are dry, the machine lets loose a god-awful buzzy sort of blare that is enough to loosen my dental work, even when I’m on the floor above and on the other side of the house.

I grew up on the shore of Lake Superior and the fog signal at Canal Park was like a gentle lullaby compared to the racket this dryer puts out.

It launches me out of my chair every time it goes off. I can imagine the residents of the cemetery down the street rising up from their graves what-the-helling as they mill around trying to figure out what’s causing the disturbance.

Based on the research I have done online, it is possible to disarm the annoying buzzer, provided one has an advanced degree in engineering. It is apparently essential to dismantle the entire appliance to get at the offending part, which I suspect is intentional. Otherwise, homeowners would take hammers to them to silence the noise and preserve their sanity.

If I don’t dive down the basement stairs immediately to remove the clothes from the dryer, it impatiently repeats the alarm every couple minutes until I do.

My microwave nags me also, if I don’t remove the food right away, but at least the alarm is less offensive.

One of the latest culprits telling me what to do is my new fitness tracker. Most of the alerts on this thing are helpful. For example, it reminds me to get up and move every 55 minutes. I want it to do that because I often spend longer than that working at my desk or sitting in meetings. I even have the ability to adjust the period of inactivity.

There are limits, however.

I was recovering from the dryer alarm trauma recently when the fitness tracker started nagging me, indicating it needed to be re-charged.

I didn’t feel like bothering with it at the time because I intended to charge it in the morning.

Later, after I had turned in for the night, I sensed something was not quite right. I opened an inquisitive eye to find the room bathed in an eerie green light that was emanating from the tracker on my night stand. I suspected this was the tracker’s way of telling me it wanted to be charged right away.

I reluctantly got up and fumbled with the device and charger before going back to sleep.

A few hours later, I was awakened yet again by something out of the ordinary.

I became aware of a persistent repeated pattern consisting of two bursts of vibrations separated by a brief interval of silence. It reminded me of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

A brief investigation, accompanied by some intemperate language, revealed that this was the tracker informing me that charging was complete.

I’m not prone to somnambulism, so there was no activity for the device to track in the middle of the night. I would have been happy to wait until morning to learn the exciting news that charging was complete.

I unplugged the tracker and buckled it on my wrist before once again trying to get back to sleep.

When I left the house after my night of interrupted sleep, the irritation persisted.

I got into my car and was greeted by a persistent dinging telling me my seat belt wasn’t fastened.

At my time of life, I’m shrewd enough to realize when my seat belt is not buckled. I can work that out all for myself and take corrective action. I don’t need some irritating alarm to remind me.

Meanwhile, an earnest voice from my radio/GPS unit was reminding me that my phone was not connected [to the system via Bluetooth].

If I want my phone connected, I’ll connect it. I don’t need some disembodied voice to nag me to do so.

It seems to me anyone who designs a consumer product with an alarm that can’t be deactivated by the average user should be locked in a room and forced to listen to their own alarm for a day or two.

It would serve them right.

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