Feb 11 2007

*Rube Goldberg’s got nothing on me

You know how maddening it is when what should be a simple task turns into something ridiculously complicated? This is one of those tales … which I seem to get to tell lot more often since moving to Sweden.

I’ve needed to replace my clock radio for a long time. The one I have has always been a bit problematic … the “alarm active” indicator light only works when it feels like it, the volume and tuning controls are difficult to distinguish from each other, and on top of that, they’re located in places that are easily bumped by other items that live on my nightstand. (Get your mind out of the gutter … I’m talking about books!)

Consequently there are way too many scenarios in which the alarm doesn’t go off as it should … because I don’t realize that it’s not activated, or it goes off but the volume is too low to wake me … or there’s no station tuned in. But it was a gift from my father-in-law the first year I lived in Sweden and I guess I’ve been slow about replacing it for sentimental reasons.

Then over Christmas, one of the discount retail chains (Clas Ohlson) had a slew of projection alarm clocks on sale (it was one of the “hot” electronic gifts this season, apparently) and that seemed like a good enough reason to go ahead and replace my tetchy clock radio … plus I thought the projection feature sounded pretty cool.

But when I got to the store, I discovered that the number of models to choose from was not as extensive as I thought, because 1) the stock had been seriously picked over and b) only a handful of them were clock RADIOS as opposed to the type that wakes you up with an annoying buzzer or beep. Who in the world besides Dr. Darling actually chooses to be rousted out of bed in such a torturous manner?

So I ended up with only two projection clock radios to choose from (a third model was out of stock) and went home with the less expensive one (a nod to my thrifty Swede, no doubt).  As I anticipated, the projection feature was really cool (this one displayed both the time and the temperature on the ceiling) but the illumination on the clock face itself was so bright that I had to cover it with a sock at night.  Seriously, it was like a lighthouse beacon and the first morning (before I figured out the sock trick), I swear I woke up with a slight tan.

So the following Saturday I went back to Clas Ohlson and exchanged it for the only other (and much more expensive) projection clock radio they had in stock.  This one didn’t project the temperature, but it had a digital tuner for the radio with a 10-station memory and a nice, gentle glow from the clock face.  It gave me the all-important option of waking to music, and perhaps coolest of all, the clock itself was radio-controlled and synchronized to a time-standard signal in Frankfurt, Germany … making it accurate to within one millisecond. (The technogeek in me was giddy over that particular feature.)

I thought all was well until I figured out (after several days) that the snooze bar only worked with the annoying beep alarm and NOT with the radio. Gah! The snooze bar is a deal-breaking feature for me … just like waking to music.  Who the hell designs a clock RADIO with no functioning snooze bar?!!  Especially a clock radio that in all other aspects is so high-tech that MacGyver could probably have launched rockets with it?!

So this one goes back to Clas Ohlson, too, and this time the clerk at the customer service desk is laughing at me before I even make it up to the counter. The store carries one other projection model (by Philips) that MIGHT actually do what I want it to do, but of course it’s still not in stock and at this point I’m ready to walk away from the whole enterprise.

But by now … almost two weeks since the purchase of the 1st clock …D r. Darling (who had not been convinced that I needed to replace the clock her Dad gave me in the first place) had become a real fan of having the time projected on the ceiling because it meant she didn’t have to lift her head and look over me to see the time. (There are TWO small super annoying battery-operated beeping alarm clocks on her nightstand but neither one of them have an illuminated dial.)

Naturally we checked out some other stores, but evidently the combination of projection+wake to music+snooze bar was harder to come by than we thought.  We did find the Philips at one or two other places but at a price that was significantly higher than Clas Ohlson’s … which may explain why they never had it in stock.

So I had pretty much resigned myself to having to live with my current clock radio FOREVER until this past Friday when it once again failed to wake me and I ended up being late for work.  Later that afternoon, Dr. Darling happened to be at Clas Ohlson on a completely unrelated errand, and the elusive Philips was miraculously in stock. So when she called me from her mobile phone and asked if I want her to buy it, I quickly snapped out of my anti-home electronics funk and said yes.

So now, more than six weeks after my first attempt, I’ve finally managed to get my hands on a projection clock radio with a snooze bar.  I just wish it didn’t look like a blue jellybean.

*Rube Goldberg was Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist famous for whimsical drawings of complex machines that perform simple tasks.

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Feed my ego!

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