By John R. Greenwood
Embrace or despise--which word best describes the relationship you have with your alarm clock?
Strangely this was the first thought I had today when I awoke practicing my morning ritual of, "Swat and Roll". Swat and Roll, that endless game of "to snooze or not to snooze", can torture you for up to an hour on days where the prognosis is poor and the weather is bleak.
I have possessed many versions of man's worst or second best friend. My earliest and fondest memory of an alarm clock was called mom. Her soft voice, forehead kiss, and gentle shake are long gone but warmly cherished. If we could invent a modern day version of those grade-school starts to our day we would be a much happier and less violent society today.
My second recollection of alarm clock life came with high school and hangovers. Those were the years when I began fine tuning my alarm clock wrestling skills. High school brought a different attitude to the start of the day than grade school. Lack of test preparation and the habit of homework neglect brought a gnawing nauseousness to the break of day (that's if you were conscious enough to set your alarm before pillow flopping). The drinking age was eighteen when I was in high school and with a two year head start (fake ID) there were many unflattering nights where too many pitchers of draft beer or cheap back-seat wine overcame good judgment. On those headache encrusted mornings the alarm clock turned into a bedside monster; ugly and ominous.
In the 70's alarm clocks were hi-tech and had phosphorescent painted digital numbers whose magic glow lasted deep into the night. Their fading glow a fitting tribute to my cloudy teens and short jaunt into adulthood.
Married a week after my nineteenth birthday alarm clocks insisted on becoming an integral part of my life. Whether it was set at 10pm for an 11-7 night shift at the Saratoga Dairy in the 70's or at 4am as it remains today it is the last face I see at night and the first one I see in the morning. It's an annoying pest who never shuts up and a beloved friend that has placed a paycheck in my hand for four decades. My latest nightstand necessity is a beauty and possesses a quality I've come to embrace. It has the ability to project the time on the ceiling in large bright red numbers. It will wake you with the soothing sounds of songbirds or crashing waves, and will remind you endlessly, yet politely, that you're a slacker and a slouch.
The point of this story is bigger than a Big Ben clock face, it's about the joy and pain of getting up for work everyday. Work is life for most Americans. Family is top dog but food and shelter are the priorities of those you love, so for all but a privileged few, getting up for work is something we all face. If you think it's hard getting up at 4am to start your day try sorting out a summer sleep schedule when your shift starts at 11pm and you have two boys, ages one and three. I was lucky if I slept more than four hours. It wasn't uncommon to go multiple days with zero sleep. No alarm clock works at that point--I could sleep on a step ladder.
I think alarm clocks are one of the most under appreciated devices we own. They're treated as though they have no feelings. Here they are day after day getting you to work or play on time, yet we feel free to strike them, curse at them, and blame them every time we disagree with what they're trying to tell us. How many times have we heard someone use the excuse, "My alarm didn't go off." Seldom do we say, "My alarm clock did everything it could to get me to work on time but I chose to ignore it for an hour and thought it would sound better if I blamed it for my inability to get out of bed".
The only true way to have a good relationship with your alarm clock is to get plenty of rest but when was the last time that happened? Our busy lifestyles insure that the alarm clocks reputation will remain a foe and not a friend for most. I'd like to change that mindset by reminding everyone that without our alarm clocks we would be late for work everyday. And if we're late, we'll either be short on hours; have to stay later; or eventually be fired. On top of that the kids will miss the bus and nobody wants that.
We think life would be better without alarm clocks but I disagree, I think life would be a mess. Imagine the chaos. I vote we institute "National Alarm Clock Appreciation Day". For maximum affect it would have to be a Monday because getting up on the last day of the week doesn't carry the same degree of difficulty as the first. I know patting a tormentor on the back goes against the grain of expectation but in this case I believe it's deserved. It is at least unarguably earned.
Let's do the right thing and acknowledge the staunch resolve alarm clocks possess. They accept their role responsibly knowing with it comes shouts of disdain and disrespect. So, tonight as I place the final touches on this tribute to a daily trooper I will set my alarm clock with renewed admiration. I think I might even add a half an hour and set it for 4:30am. I think we'd both enjoy a few minutes of extra solitude tomorrow, we've both earned it.