Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Morning Systems Failure: Analysis and Policy Implications

We had a bad morning the other day. I woke up to the doorbell ringing. When I forced my unwilling eyes open the alarm clock announced that it was 7:48. The kids are usually picked up around 7:55.

I put on pants. Most social interactions go better when wearing pants. I was pretty sure that the few exceptions to that rule were not going to be options in the near future. (Our caller was probably not inviting me to go swimming and my wife had already left.)

The little Goofs were running around yelling, “Someone is at the door! Someone is at the door!”

Surprisingly, this did not help – anything.

Downstairs, to my limited relief, it was not the carpool. It was our neighbor ringing the doorbell and hammering on the door. It meant I had a little time.

The neighbor informed me that my wife had called him to make sure we got up. Fair enough, she had left for work early and had called the house several times. I croaked a thank you.

I made my son toast. The carpool pulled up. My wife called. I sent my son off and took in 3C so she and my daughter could fight for a while.

I paid obeisance to the dark lord, Mr. Coffee while the little girls snickered at each other. I poured some Cheerios in a plastic cup and took my daughter and 3C to school.

Post-Mortem Analysis and Policy Changes

Being a graduate student in public policy, we analyzed the morning’s events to determine how our systems had broken down and how to prevent this from occurring in the future. (Don’t most families apply systems analysis to their morning routine?)

The irony of this bad morning is that the kids were wide-awake and reading before 7AM, and my son knows how to tell time. So the solution is right at hand! If the parents aren’t moving, and it is a school day, the kids have permission to jump on mommy and daddy and get them up.

Not that they’ve ever needed permission for this or been reticent about commando jumping sleeping adults before. One needs to be careful in legitimating this behavior.

We also attempted to constrain their new Rooster authority with a weekend clause – that is, DO NOT JUMP ON SLEEPING ADULTS ON WEEKENDS. Not that they were permitted to this before and again, not that this has stopped them before.

For adults, these rules would be pretty clear. But while my son can read the numbers he is still a bit vague about days of the week – and my daughter at five has no concept whatsoever. She is still at an age when each morning she is surprised that she is going to school – and she complains about it. So it is possible that these two conflicting rules will lead to malfunctions – kind of like what happened to Hal 9000 in 2001 Space Odyssey. (Or maybe they’ll just stand next to the bed and sing, “Daisy, daisy…”)

And we haven’t even tried to incorporate holidays and daylight savings time.

It is another lesson in public policy – every solution has unintended consequences. Still, after doing a cost/benefit analysis we determined that I need to get them to school more then I need to sleep. On weekend days when they are confused (which is often) we can always park them in front of the tube on Sunday morning. Of course, this creates its own set of incentives…

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