Temperamental and Twisted Technology


I think technology has officially passed me up. I was thinking about The Jetsons the other day, and the episode when Mrs. Jetson was overwhelmed from the machines and gadgets that were supposed to simplify her life. I understand Jane so much better now, as I throw in the towel for my two latest tech additions in our house – what should be a simple alarm clock, and a freaking scale. Like there wasn’t enough wrong with either of those items to begin with, I have now teched it out beyond recognition.

The Jetsons shows us the future in year 2062 – 100 years from the actual airdate of 1962 (and yes, thank you, we are closer to 2062 than we are to 1962 so let’s all freak out about that later when we can schedule some time to do so properly). Pressing so many buttons made Jane’s fingers tied, twisted and cramped, and she was diagnosed with some sort of futuristic carpal tunnel syndrome. Being a housewife of the future had overwhelmed her hands to the point of debilitating pain and stress. She truly “needed” to hire a robot maid to help her with all the strenuous button pushing. At the time I originally watched this episode (probably during the 1985 reboot) I was in disbelief. Who could be overwhelmed by technology?! She had it so easy! A press of a button solved everything! And now here I am. I have technology that is just the press of a button (not even a real PRESS – just a TOUCH) and I am a twisted cranky person as well. And for the record, I have wanted a robot maid (and other futuristic inventions) for quite some time, which you can read here in my blog from 2015.

So, today’s tech fails in my life. Let’s start with these two – the scale and the alarm clock – and then I can obsess about this until 2062 and keep you updated on others as they occur.

First, there was the scale. Now, mind you, the scale and I have never been friends. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve worn every size from 4 to 16 at some point in my life, and I generally like to judge how things are going by how my pants fit rather than what number the scale assigns. But nevertheless, I regularly step on the scale. My grandmother used to take her earrings off when she got on the scale at the doctor’s office. Then I started watching “This is Us” and saw Kate do the same thing and I thought “Oh yes, I know you!” So when our scale BROKE, I tried not to take it personally. I don’t know when batteries became an essential part of the scale, but I replaced them, and still the scale said E. I don’t like E. I imagine it is the dying sounds of the scale saying “eh” as I ask it how much I weigh and the scale would rather die than tell me. So I ditched the scale. The hubby decided he was going to pick out a new scale. First, he told me about a scale that was a full-length mirror that analyzed your weight, BMI, and whether specific parts of your body had gotten more toned or flabby. I looked at him with a general haze of disbelief. I wondered if I could get in full body Spanx and trick the mirror scale, or if it would be like the Magic Mirror that Snow White’s evil stepmother queen used to consult. So, I shook my head and requested we not get the full body criticism-sharing mirror. Let’s keep it simple, I asked. Brian nodded and bought a bluetooth scale with memory and user info that connected to an app on my phone. I wrinkled my nose. He explained it to me. He’d entered both of our initials in the scale, so that when we stepped on, it would know who we were, and record our weight, so we could see it in the fat-tracking app, and we could watch our progress. And we would only see our OWN progress, the scale would be confidential and not share each other’s weight. This I found important. Now, for the record, Brian is like many men, where if he decides he wants to lose weight, his brain sends a message to his body, and he loses weight. Maybe he’ll drink a little less whiskey. Maybe he’ll eat more salad. But because of whatever evil spell has been cast on the universe, he is a man and loses weight easily. I, on the other hand, do not lose weight easily. I drink gallons of lemon water. I go to the gym and work with a trainer twice a week, I ride the spin bike at home another couple of times a week. I eat a controlled amount of calories each day following the Zone plan and take vitamins and drink green tea and walk the dogs and try to get my 10,000 steps. And then, if I stand naked on the scale, take off my earrings, and be sure to exhale all the air in my lungs, I might lose half a pound. My trainer, whom I love, tells me this is normal, and not to worry about the scale. The fact that I’m down a pants size is more important than a number on the scale. I get it, but this means that my scale progress versus Brian’s scale progress are two different things. But he thinks this supersmart scale is a great plan. So I tried it. And then I fell apart. Because although Brian promised me that the scale would know there were two of us to track, and keep us separate, it did NOT know who I was. After stepping on the scale, I panicked. It asked me BTM? OMG. Did I weigh as much as Brian? Had life spiraled out of control so that I was the same poundage as a six-foot man? I desperately tried to figure out how to change the user to CEM – stomping and toe touching on the scale like an Irish jig. Was this going to record in his app? Was he going to think he was making progress and then there would be this wife weight blip? How much weight did I need to lose to make it clear to the scale that I was not my husband? This was the worst invention ever. I left the scale sending me messages of “???” and retreated as far away as I could, and bought my own scale. Just for me. No one else. It doesn’t know who I am. It doesn’t remember what I weighed yesterday or last week or when I was 30 years old. This anonymous and forgetful/forgiving relationship is exactly what I need. Brian (BTM!) later told me that the scale isn’t guessing who is who – it just needs to know who I am. And BTM is alphabetically before CEM. And when our 11 year old daughter got on the scale it also asked if she were BTM, so it wasn’t me. No. This scale wasn’t for me at all.

Recently I read an article that in addition to counting calories, increasing metabolism and exercising, eating whole / real / clean food, drinking water and green tea, limiting alcohol and sugar and processed food, the real secret to losing weight is to get a good night’s sleep. And that brings us to my new alarm clock. I love going to sleep, I just don’t like getting out of bed. My kids inherited this anti-morning issue, which makes getting up for school so much fun. Our parenting skills also seem to be lacking in the morning hours, but after trying to wake the teenage boy for 45 minutes by blasting music, turning on every light and generally screaming nonsense, we were out of ideas. We then resorted to getting our teenager out of bed by throwing water onto his sleeping body. I admit I took a bit of evil pleasure in making Alex so mad – but he was awake.

But me? I do wake up with an alarm, I just don’t like it. So when I saw this magic alarm clock that promised to change my morning wake up routine for the better, I was hooked: “Intelligent alarm clock with smart home integration – Now you can sleep well every night with soothing white noise while your phone and tablet are charging. Wake up refreshed every morning with a wake up light that simulates sunrise, set your alarm to your favorite music, and receive weather and traffic reports. Even communicates with other smart devices in your home to adjust your room temperature, brew your coffee, and much more!”

That sounds amazing, right? It’s like Rosie the Robot maid has arrived. Light that simulates sunrise was particularly enticing, as waking up throughout the dark mornings of New Jersey winter are not really that conducive to a happy me. I dreamt of this magic light emanating from the clock, soft dulcet tones of an inspirational tune playing quietly, perhaps even magical birds chirping and flying overhead, while little mice began my chores. I mean, who was going to brew the coffee? It sounded like the morning I always dreamt about, so I bought not one, not two, but THREE of these magical clocks. I gave one to each of the kids and took the third for myself. I actually wrapped it up and opened it my own self on Christmas morning. And then we plugged them in. And that is where my dreams started to deteriorate.

First, the kids were unimpressed. They didn’t care what kind of alarm clock it was, they didn’t want to do anything resembling waking up in the morning. Then, once I finally convinced them to plug in their magic clocks, I realized that they did not work like regular clocks. There was no “time set” or “alarm set” buttons, no hours or minutes. I needed to download an app to set the clock. So then we needed to find my kid’s phones, which were shockingly out of battery. Once we charged them enough to download the needed app, I realized that no one at the magic clock store was anticipating me purchasing multiple magic clocks, and each of the phone apps had all the clocks to sync to via Bluetooth, and somehow I connected the phones to the wrong clocks, so that my kids were then able to set alarms in each other’s rooms, in a sort of technological torture, where they could either wake someone else up too early or have them sleep in too late and miss their start to their morning. “Just come wake us up” my kids implored, and unplugged the magic clocks.

I sat down next to my remaining magic clock and plugged it in. “I will make magic,” I promised myself, and started to download my magic clock app. I decided that since the download was taking so long, I’d go to bed and get the alarm and wake-up parts going the next day. There were many days of magic ahead. No need to rush or stay up late to make it work. Bedtime at 10, I was determined to get a good night sleep. Skinny dreams awaited me.

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, checking my new magic clock and feeling refreshed and excited. Maybe just having the magic clock near me would make me sleep well! Maybe just the presence of this new promise was all I needed! I quietly padded out of bed, so as not to wake the hubby, pet the dog on the way to the bathroom and decided to check my email when I got back to my cozy bed and covers. “I don’t really need to be up until 6:30”, I thought, “Let me get started on my day! The world is full of possibilities!”

I replied to emails, I read ones I had been neglected the day before. I wondered why my Daily Skimm email hadn’t arrived – it was always in my inbox by 6:13, like clockwork, keeping me informed about the world. I checked my magic clock. 6:30. I looked at my inbox. No Skimm. I looked at the ipad clock. 4:21. Wait, what? I grabbed my phone – 4:21. What was going on? The magic clock app had not yet downloaded. It was in a circular loop of technological purgatory, so the Bluetooth hadn’t yet connected to the magic clock to tell it what time it really was. Since I had plugged in the magic clock at 10 when I was going to bed, it simply had started from 12:00, default clock time, and counted hours from there. I had not woken up at 6 a.m. I had woken up 6 hours later, like a stinking stopwatch. It was 4:21 in the morning, and I was wide-awake. A total magic clock fail. And somehow, I reset my internal clock, so for the week following clockgate – I woke up – wide awake – every freaking morning – at 4 a.m. Every night. 4 a.m. Wide. Awake. Shoot me.

My friend Oprah recently sent me her latest magazine, and in it there was a giant feature article about sleep. I read it from beginning to end, nodding, because sleep – and sleep health or “hygiene” – is really important to me. If it wouldn’t embarrass my kids I’d say “Sleep health is my jam!” but if I said that they would shake their heads and tell me that’s not a thing people say. Especially moms. Especially me. So Oprah reminds me to dim the lights at night, have cozy jammies, a special routine at night to remind my brain it’s time for bed. Yes, check, I do all those things. Sometimes when I’m getting ready for bed I compare my nighttime routine to those I’ve watched in Downton Abbey or The Crown. I somehow think lords and ladies and royalty have the market on this sleep health and routine thing. I am just one lady’s maid shy of nighttime perfection. So at the very end of the sleep article Oprah sent, she explains that there are two different kinds of insomnia. Sleep-Onset insomnia means you can’t fall asleep at bedtime. There’s like seventeen different solutions for that. Lavender lotion or essential oils. Dimmer switch for your lights. Cozier jammies or fabulous new sheets. Room darkening shades. Colder room. On and on goes the list to help solve that problem. Sleep-Maintenance Insomnia, however, is when you go to sleep just fine, but then you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. There are zero solutions to get back to sleep. Instead? The advice is to get out of bed, even at 3 or 4 a.m. and get something done. “Take this opportunity to rearrange your spice rack or open a book.” Oprah, are you kidding me? You can’t solve my waking up in the middle of the night issues? I thought we were friends. Between Oprah failing me and my magic clock failing me, I’m a wee bit on the tired side.

Katie, my 11 year old who remembers everything I’ve ever done that might be crazy, reminded me that my search for the magic alarm clock has been years in the making. “Mom, don’t you remember when you bought me that alarm clock that had wheels? And the idea was that it would roll around the room and make noise and I’d have to get out of bed and catch it to turn it off?” Oh yes. I remember that. I don’t think that worked either. And then there was the time I bought Alex an alarm clock that had a two-foot wide paper-slim disk that you put between the box spring and the mattress and when the alarm went off it would shake the bed, simulating a semi-serious earthquake. I don’t think that worked either.

So now what? I’ve over-thought, over-teched, over-bought and under-slept. Maybe my goals of being hip and cool and cutting edge need to be re-evaluated. When I was a kid and watched older generations deal with new technology and they had a hard time, I’d shake my head. I would never be like that. I was the generation that embraced new technology. My grandmother (yes, the same woman who took her earrings off to get weighed at the doctor’s office) got a microwave way before anyone else I knew, but it wasn’t her idea. It had been a gift. She kept a glass pyrex measuring pitcher in it while she wasn’t using it. “In case it turns on by itself, then it won’t be microwaving just air – there will be something in there for it to microwave.” I thought this was hilarious. I mean who worries that the microwave is going to turn on by itself? And comes up with an action plan for it? Not just a juice glass, mind you, a whole 4-cup Pyrex brand-name measuring pitcher. When I first saw Jennifer Lawrence do her bit about the “science oven” in “American Hustle” I busted out laughing thinking about my grandmother. She would have approved of the science-oven fears. Old dogs, new tricks.

And so I will stick to what works, for now. And I will embrace my inability to program a clock with sunshine or tame a scale that tattles. I can reheat leftovers in the microwave with gusto, find the news on my phone, and crush candy like it’s my job. For now, that’s just good enough.



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