June 7, 2005

Bright Lights.

In many respects, I’m a full fledged technology geek, eager to embrace the newest and shinest gadget known to man. I’ve had a Palm Pilot. I’ve done the satellite radio thing. I boast the latest in Apple innovations.

There are some things that I just can not move to the latest and greatest with. One of those things is my alarm clock. I’ve tried numerous alarm clocks over the past 30 years or so, and many of them are neatly stored in my closet with no hope of seeing the light of day or the dark of night due to one simple reason.

They’re too damn bright.

I’ve got this thing for sleeping. It needs to be pitch black or very, very close to it. I don’t do well with lights in the room.

I have an alarm clock that I received as a gift from my grandmother in 1983. Its a digital alarm clock, in that it has little numbers that flip once a minute. Of course my OCD has kicked and I have it synchronized with the school clock collection throughout the house, so that the number flips exactly when the wall clock clicks ahead. I love this alarm clock. You can barely read its dimly lit numbers and its very retro in a General Electric sort of way. The trouble is that you can’t set the alarm to an exact time. The alarm has a dial that has time divisions for each quarter hour. You can set it at 6:00 a.m. and it’ll go off at 5:57 one day and then 6:04 the next. In that respect, it drives me crazy so it has earned a spot of prominence on my desk, where I only need to set the alarm when I’m sleeping on my desk during on call. If it goes off too late, I usually don’t give a damn.

I’ve tried the alarm clocks that display the time on the ceiling but it did nothing but fuel my fear of alien abduction. “I’m being attacked by the 2:42 aliens! Help me! Help me!”

For most of our relationship we’ve used Earl’s alarm clock from his bachelor days. (I don’t like to think of whom else has turned it off in the past before that fateful day in ’96.) It has dual alarms. It employs the good old red LED display from the late 1980s era. Another box of GE goodness. The radio reception sucks and the noise sends the cat flying every morning but for the most part it’s all good.

But once in a while I try something new. The latest addition to the nightstand is an RCA with a “warm, soothing” blue display. The alarm ramps up in volume, starting at a soft peep and working up to fire alarm howl at the appropriate time. Whomever wrote “warm, soothing blue display” on the box should be shot.

I feel like I’m sleeping in the middle of the Carrier Dome.

The first night of this clock I felt like I was drugged. Everything I dreamed was in a blue tint. Shadows of frisky felines danced across my eyelids. It was like sleeping in that boat tunnel on Willy Wonka, without the dead chicken. All that was missing was an Oompa Loompa. Then I read the fine manual, which led the way to a switch that turned on the “auto dimming” feature.

So much for that.

While I didn’t see as much blue, it still lit up the room enough to allow me the luxury of seeing what the cat actually does while we sleep. He paws Earl’s goatee, he jumps on my balls, he licks my toes and he takes a dump in the plant on the window sill. Well maybe I’m being a little demonstrative, but nighttime feline activities should be a secret and should not be lit by an alarm clock.

Back in the box you go, dear alarm clock.

So now we’re back on the bachelor clock. It’s not as sexy, but it works. At least I won’t wake up with a tan on my eyelids.