At 10:30 AM EST, Cut editor Molly Fischer was away from her desk when her iPhone began to chime. "WHOSE FUCKING BELL TOWER RINGTONE IS THAT?" I screamed silently into our staff chat room. "It's my alarm so I sort of want to kill myself right now," said my co-worker Kurt.
Hearing the alarm you use to wake up in the morning coming out of someone else's phone at another time of day is among the banal terrors of modern life. Being forced to revisit the daily trauma of waking up can trigger confused panic, uncontrollable rage, adrenaline rushes, and arm spasms as muscle memory compels you to reach for a nonexistent nightstand. Phone Alarm Stress Disorder (PASD) is relatively inconsequential, but it is real, and it is really annoying.
Like your name or the cry of a child, you will recognize your wake-up alarm through any din. Every morning it wrenches you from an unconscious state and into a conscious one, so sounds associated with the daily trauma of waking up are imprinted on both minds. Since there are only so many types of phones — and thus only so many preprogrammed ring tones — if you use your phone as an alarm clock, you will likely encounter it in public at some point.
PASD exists for other alarms, too. "I felt my back and neck tense," said one co-worker when I set off the Alarm ringtone in the office. "That's the alert I get when my parents call. The minute I hear that, my heart starts racing and I will automatically pick up my phone even when I know it's not coming from my phone."
"But if you use Alarm for your parent ringtone, when it goes off you traumatize people who use Alarm as an Alarm!" I replied. "They have a waking-up reaction when you have a oh-shit-parents reaction." At the heart of PASD is the mutability of personal electronics, which we customize by rearranging presets that everyone else arranges in a slightly different way.
Polite cell-phone users recognize that tones commonly used as alarms should not be used as ring tones. For this reason, the following iPhone ringtones are unacceptable: Alarm, Bell Tower, Trill, Time Passing. (Unacceptable because they're annoying: Bark, Sonar, Duck, Old Car Horn.) Personally, I think all cell phones should be no louder than "vibrate" at all times, but I recognize that some people are important enough to require sonic intervention when they are needed. Heart surgeons and the parents of terminally ill children, for instance.
"I just hit snooze on Molly's phone and now I'm wishing I was in bed," Kurt said moments before Molly returned. "OH FUCK DID MY PHONE GO OFF AAAH I'M SORRY," she said, followed by a series of profuse apologies. For as irritating as daytime alarm deployment is to endure, causing it can trigger feelings of shame and embarrassment. When the alarm in question is your own alarm, deployed accidentally, that, too, can be jarring. "In a weird way, I feel relieved not to have been here," Molly noted. "It would have been annoying."
Most Viewed Stories
I Tried Hillary Clinton’s Diet and Now I Sympathize With Her
Blake Lively Reportedly Just Gave Birth, and You’ll Never Guess Who’s Running to the Hospital
Brad Pitt Fights Back Against Angelina Jolie and Her Plot to ‘Destroy’ Him
Looks Like Kate Middleton Is Enjoying the View in Canada
Angelina Jolie Got Everything She Wanted in Temporary Divorce Deal With Brad Pitt
What It’s Like to Be a Female Reporter Covering Donald Trump
The Best Part of Being a Royal Is Getting to Pet Bunnies
The Mysterious Deaths of Two Sisters in a Luxury Hotel
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Megyn Kelly Roasts Trump’s Campaign Manager for Claiming He Doesn’t Make Sexist Comments
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesThe Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.