The beeping wouldn't stop.
No matter what I did, the noise was penetrating my skull, screaming that some piece of technology was in "warning mode" and trying to alert me to take some action. Simply because it was programmed to do so.
You might think I'm talking about a diabetes device here, right?
Well, my insulin pump and CGM do make those noises. But in this case, I'm referring to the annoying beeps and dings that won't shut up when you're behind the wheel of a car, doing something the vehicle just doesn't think is OK.
I've been driving quite a bit lately (see my post on moving house), and have been behind the wheel of many different vehicles that range from standard-sized sedans to SUVs, cargo vans, and a big 20-foot moving truck. On top the usual D-Device alerts, I've been grappling with these:
- Seatbelt Dinger for Driver and Passenger Seats. If I take my seatbelt off, I know all hell is going to break lose in the 2 minutes that I'm not buckled up. Instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt, after 1 minute (or 30 seconds or even 15 seconds in some vehicles), the car starts beeping to tell me that I'm unfastened.
- Blindspot Sensor Alert: Something comes up alongside you, in a blind spot, and you get alerted. This sounds like a good idea, but when you're pulling up to a drive-through window, trying to pay for your burger and fries, it can just be maddening.
- Front Obstacle Alert: Something is in front of my vehicle, really close. So my vehicle is programmed to assume I don't actually see it and set off an audible alert that won't be quiet until the object is out of my car sensor's sight.
- Reverse Obstacle Alert: See above, just think about this all happening behind you instead of up front.
- Hatch Opening Sensor/Buttons: I've discovered that newer model SUVs have an automatic sensor that you must waive your foot underneath to open the hatch in back. And it's never easy to find, so you look like an idiot standing there waving your foot around in mid-air. Oh, and added fun: at one point, some car-designers fell asleep at the wheel (pun) and added in a trailer hitch, that covers up the sensor... major mistake that was later fixed, but certainly drew the ire of many SUV drivers.
Danger, Will Robinson
The other day, as I was pulling up to a Starbucks drive-through window in a Ford Escape that wasn't my own, something began beeping frantically. I assume the car registered DANGER when it sensed the drive-through window and its brick wall foundation coming up on the left side. I rolled the window down to hand my debit card to the barista, with the alert sounding off like a crying child.
I was so annoyed, I wanted to yell "SHUT UP!" (at the stupid alert), but held my tongue, as the barista might take it the wrong way.
What really bothers me about these alarms is that they're built as safety protections, yet none of them are customizable by the user. You mostly can't adjust the volume or tone, or opt to turn some of them off if not needed. They are pre-programmed in a set pattern, and if, as a car owner, you notice after purchase that these alarms could use adjusting, you are basically SOL.
And that, My Friends, is where we come back to diabetes devices.
This has been the case with my insulin pumps and CGM, too; they insist on beeping or vibrating non-stop for a certain set time (say, after a low blood sugar), or if you've had the battery removed for a stretch that it deems too long.
Sure, these can be dangerous health situations that need attention. And I do need to be reminded at times.
But if the settings aren't practical for me, I Iearn to just ignore the alerts -- and that defeats the purpose. Lots of times I know the sensor is off my body and I've already checked my BG. Or I'm taking a break before reconnecting my insulin pump. I want to be able to tweak the alerts to reflect my choices.
Diabetes Alert Burnout
Over the years, I've often found myself frustrated with how my insulin pump won't stop wailing during a set change, or when I have the pump disconnected for a short time after a shower, or just in between infusion site changes when I'd like to be free and untethered for just a bit. I'd rather not lose all my settings and have to reprogram my pump, so I opt not to take the batteries out of the device. You know, assuming I'm using a D-device that still uses batteries and doesn't need charging, requiring the battery bar to be completely drained before it goes dead.
These alerts bug the heck out of me, and sometimes I think a good deal of my diabetes burnout feelings come from feeling henpecked by these alarms.
Example: One particularly modern pump whines incessantly when you take out the cartridge, and because it is a USB-rechargeable pump, all you can do short of putting in a new one, is stuff it under pillows or in the bottom of a drawer and then leave the room with the door closed. Apparently, the designers just never thought or cared that someone might want to take a break before putting a new cartridge in.
I wish to heck there were a way to pick and choose which ones I wanted to be active in my device, and at what parameters. Honestly, I like my Dexcom G4 best of all because it allows some customization of how and when I these alerts to notify me of issues -- if I don't want a loud beep, there's vibrate. And I can choose the threshold number for when it alerts me. Not to mention I can actually turn it off very easily, if I decide to not be CGM-connected for any short period of time. Thank you!
What annoys me about pre-set automatic alerts is that I feel like they're treating me like an idiot who doesn't know how to drive -- or knows nothing about managing my own diabetes.
Even in an era when everyone is saying "one size doesn't fit all" and customers should have choices, I find myself worried that the push for our next-gen tech, like closed loop systems, to "take away all the thinking" is setting the stage for more incessant beeping that we can't escape.
Part of me worries that we're being brainwashed to rely too much on these features -- whether it's a rear-view car camera with alerts that make us forget what we learned in driving school years ago, or a diabetes device that does all the D-math calculations for you, and leads you to forget what your rates are and how to calculate these numbers for yourself.
And if the device doesn't beep at all, then apparently nothing is wrong.... (that seems like Famous Last Words, to me).
In other words, I am glad safety alerts exist. But what I don't like is their mandatory nature, and how you can't turn them off but must live with them no matter what you're doing.
All I want is to insert a little customer thinking and choice here. That way we can avoid automatic alarms that scream for attention, but only serve to annoy, and therefore are mostly ignored.
Also, I want to tune in again to my own internal alarms and alerts, telling me to take note when something isn't right. Because that's how I learned to drive and do my diabetes back in the day, and if I let my D-Tech tools and alerts do everything for me, then I'm losing the foundation I've been standing on. No?