Sound the alarm

I have an emotional relationship with alarm clocks. Not the hate relationship that most people have because it interrupts sleep. My relationship is far more basic than that.

When Adrien and I were first married, we saved extra pennies in a jar until we could afford a radio alarm clock. We finally achieved our goal, which may have been $25, and purchased an Emerson clock radio with alarm from Lechmere – the big store that used to exist right near the Museum of Science in Boston.  To my thinking, it was the best alarm clock ever made. We used that bad boy for years and years and years. Until I wanted something more modern, something with two alarm buttons and a snooze setting. Oh, and by then CD players on alarm clocks were the gold standard.

So I convinced Adrien that we needed a new alarm clock. And I bought an RCA with a lovely CD player-radio-two alarm-snooze button-environmental sound option. The first night I plugged it in and the hideous blue light kept me awake. Changed the light color to something more subtle and still, I couldn’t sleep. What was wrong with the old red numbers anyway? THEY didn’t keep me awake. But I digress.

I did manage to play one CD in the CD player before the thing crapped out. The light display was so bothersome that I ended up turning the clock face toward the wall so it didn’t glare at me. Here I was with a spiffy new alarm clock that after a week kept me up with its hideous light display, didn’t play CDs after one try and I couldn’t glance at the clock to see what time it was because the clock face had to face the wall.

And then there was the cacophony that passed for an alarm.  I’ve heard sweeter sounds in a junior high marching band. It that alarm didn’t wake you up, you must be dead. Okay, poor consumer research. I’d do better next time; I’d buy something simpler, something with a gentle awakening sound. Something that didn’t blare a hideous blue light in my eyes all night.

Just about this time, LL Bean offered a Sunbeam alarm clock. No clock radio, just an alarm clock.  An updated version – I remember my grandparents had a similar model which was encased in real wood – this one came in a variety of soft pastel colors. I chose yellow because we had recently painted our bedroom yellow.

This clock had a spiffy analog clock face. Very basic.  What I didn’t realize was that for about 3 minutes prior to the alarm actually sounding, this bad boy would pulsate all along the clock case. Its furious blinking quickened as the time for the alarm approached.  In theory, the marketing literature claimed this would gradually wake the sleeping owner so that, refreshed and relaxed, said owner would reach over, turn off the sounding alarm — which once again turned out to be a most horrible low sounding buzzing  – just as it began to go off.  In actuality, the pulsating light show just ticked me off because I lost an extra 5 minutes of sleep each morning watching the show and waiting for the nagging alarm to buzz.  We relegated this purchase to a spare bedroom where even unplugged it continued to nag us from afar.  You see, this clock featured a battery back-up.

For several months the stupid thing would glow, pulse and warm us that it was approaching the time to wake up. Then one day, my son, the engineer in the family, took the foolish thing apart and removed light bulb from the clock case. Peace at last.

About a year ago, convinced I could be a good consumer and purchase an alarm clock that would not only wake me, it would charge my iPod. Fixed on the convenience of no longer connecting my iPod to the computer when it needed a charge, I was confident that here at last was an alarm clock that would take me into the next millenium.

Wrong. This clock – again – features a hideous bright blue clock face; something of the wattage one might expect from a sign on the Vegas strip.  A bit of genius on my part, I faithfully cover the clock face with a piece of cardboard each night so that the ever present glow does not keep me awake. I bet  you thought I hadn’t learned anything from my previous purchases. See, I did learn something, really I did.

And wait, there’s more. It beeps. Not a nice chirping. A nagging beep, beep, Beep, BEEp, BEEP until you figure out which of the many cryptically marked buttons will release you from the hellish reminder that it is indeed time to get out of bed. This alarm is only made more special by the fact that about 10 percent of the time, it doesn’t go off at all. Bonus.

Given my purchase history over the last 20+ years, I now have to admit that I just am clueless about alarm clocks. Maybe someone out there has a suggestion. Or maybe I can just get a rooster. It surely would be less obnoxious sounding and definitely would not glow in the dark.

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