When the little hand is on the 4

We bet some of you still have a Big Ben alarm clock. Some of you probably still use it. Those suckers are loud!   Some folks put them on a dresser across the room so they’d have time to calm down before they got to it to turn off the alarm.   We wonder if the company ever calculated how many of its clocks were bought as replacements for ones that went off next to a bedside and met an untimely (to coin a phrase) end when thrown against the wall.

Our oldest granddaughter had a birthday the other day. Six. She’s starting to read books with chapters. And her parents decided it’s time she learned about time.   As in telling it.

So Nancy found a nice little bedside alarm clock that would do the trick and we sent it to Colorado in time for the birthday. Round. Numbers in a circle 1-12. Hour hand. Minute hand. Alarm hand. It’s modern because it uses a battery and does have a little handle on the back to wind it. It’s not a Big Ben. We want her to have a normal childhood, not go from sound sleep to stunned wakefulness in the blink of an eye.

Nancy, being a thoughtful consumer, read some of the reviews posted on the internet. Some were good. Some were less than mediocre. But they said something about today’s culture. And they are filled with “duh” moments.

One person was in a real pickle because the clock has “no am/pm specification…Example: set it for 7 a.m.. Put kids to bed at 7 p.m. alarm sounds at 7 p.m.. Must be turned on each night.”   In other words, it had no 24-hour option or it had no switch that said AM or PM.

Look, friend, it does, too, have a 24-hour function. The hands go around twice in 24 hours and the consumers are expected to be aware enough of the world around them to know whether it’s AM or PM. Sheesh!

Another reviewer, probably of the same generation, complained, “Does this alarm clock have an AM and PM button. Alarm goes off both times. All is Chinese so can’t make head or tail of it.”

No, it doesn’t have an AM-PM button. See the previous paragraph.

As for the grave problem of not being able to read Chinese directions, one person insightfully responded, “You don’t need to read directions to put some batteries in and figure out how to set the clock and alarm.” Frankly, we’ve seen some products that come with directions that are not in Chinese or any other language. We just get drawings that are supposed to show us how to do something. Supposed to.

These adults of the digital age are precisely the reason why our granddaughter is getting an old-fashioned alarm clock. She needs to do more than read a digital readout. She needs to be able to tell time.   The alarm goes off at waking-up time.   Before you go to bed at night, presumably somewhat more than twelve hours later, you turn the alarm back on. This little clock not only will tell our granddaughter how to tell time, it will encourage her to THINK and remember to do something when she goes to bed—turn on the alarm clock when she’s old enough to need an alarm.

Mankind existed for hundreds of years with clocks that did not have AM/PM switches. For millions of human being AM meant the sun was in the east. PM meant the sun was in the west. If the sun is in the west and you want to wake up when the sun is in the east, turn on the alarm.

Some of you probably worry that the increasing reliance on the digital world is leading to the extinction of common sense. I guess we’re giving you more ammunition today.

Do you suppose there are people who can figure out how to program their VCR and their digital clocks but are baffled by little knobs on the back of an analog bedside clock? Apparently there are.

Our longtime friend and fellow broadcaster Derry Brownfield, who died a little more than four years ago, would have read these concerns, would have shaken his head, and muttered one of his favorite phrases, “ignorance gone to seed.” He sometimes felt ignorance was a penalty we pay for progress.

Derry, incidentally, was just the opposite of these poor puzzled people. He could never figure out these digital clock things. When he was doing his talk show in the studio just off the Missourinet newsroom, he had a big round wall clock with the numbers 1-12 in a circle, little hand, big hand, and red second hand. He had pieces of paper taped to the rim of the clock next to some of the numbers. When the big hand was on the 4 and the second hand was on the 12, it was time for a commercial. When the big hand was on the six and the red second hand was straight up, it was time for a station break. And so forth.

And Derry could look out a window and tell if it was AM or PM.