Alarm Clock

I stopped using my alarm clock recently.

When I was a kid, my dad was my alarm clock. He’d wake me up every morning for school. Sometimes he woke me up really early, like 4 am. My mom was a bus driver and we only had one family car, so dad drove her. They couldn’t leave my 6 year old brother and I alone, so we went too. She had to go to a farm a half-hour drive south of town every morning at 5 am to get the bus, warm it up, (call for a tow and a substitute if it wouldn’t start; sometimes it didn’t), and begin her route. She’d work her way from Black Creek to the south of Campbell River, to the ferry dock, to Sayward, north of town, and back to the Christian School to drop kids off.

My brother and I wandered around the farm while we waited for the bus to warm up. There were calves, tractors and corn to look at. Dad would either pace or do the crossword. Once they were sure the bus was going to work, dad and Tim and I went to a truck stop called the Purple Cow and had breakfast. It was not every morning, but pretty often, when I was four years old. Early mornings were cold and blue-grey, and I could see my breath no matter what time of year it was. I was not awake at 4 am and the whole thing passed in a chilly cloud of cow manure, diesel exhaust, bacon and cigarette smoke. I think that was so long ago that people still smoked indoors.   

My dad kept waking me up for school until I was 12. He is chronically punctual for everything, sometimes to the point of absurdity, and he enforced this on me as well. If the bus was coming at 8:00, I had better be standing on the road at 7:45. If it took me an hour to get ready in the morning (it did, and still does – I move slow), then I had to be awake at 6:30. So every morning at 6:30, he’d come in and gently tap my shoulder. I’d growl, pull the blankets tight over my head, and roll away.

He’d shake my shoulder harder, finally wrestling the covers off altogether and dragging me out of bed. This went on for years. On Saturday I’d sleep in till noon or later, in protest. To his credit, he never bothered me then. On Sunday I was forced to get up for church, and every Sunday I’d swear, without fail, that when I was a grownup I’d wake up whenever I damn well wanted, probably at noon.

Eventually we got tired of this routine. I think my reaction must have gotten violent enough that it was making my dad hate mornings as much as I did. He bought me an alarm clock. For some reason, this solved the problem. The alarm clock is impersonal – I can’t be mad at it. I set it for 6:45 instead of 6:30, and got up with no problems for the rest of my school career.

However, I’m mostly deaf. I don’t wear hearing aids at night. I never could hear the beep that the alarm clock made, so I set it to wake me up with the radio. After a couple years I started sleeping through the morning lite hits, so I changed it to play static from a dead channel, and cranked the volume up. Over the next 14 years, the alarm clock got louder and louder and I slept through it more and more often. For a good long time I never hit the snooze button, but the first time I tried it the spell was broken. I started hitting snooze 3 or 4 times. The last hour before I got up was jangly, broken, stressful sleep.  So this year, I gave up on the stupid thing altogether and stopped setting it.

Now I wake up at exactly 6:30 every single morning. Weekends included. Thanks dad.