I have an old clock radio. It has fake wood panelling and a digital display, but barely. Any older and it would have flip cards for numbers and run on a difference engine.
Goodness knows where this clock radio came from (I’m assuming my parents) but it’s been at my bedside for as long as I remember, and come morning, it would always wake me with the radio.
The radio was background noise; it was familiar. I got to know the morning hosts very well, I got to know Trent Radio 92.7 FM very well, or Trent Radio at a certain time of day, and only very briefly, and I was always mildly irritated when the schedule changed.
The radio coaxed me out of bed, gradually, when I’d really rather be sleeping, and that was good enough for years.
When I was packing up to go to university, I stared at that clock radio and its inconsistent face-lights, showing different intensities of the number “8”. If you squint or if it’s very dark, you can still make out the time.
“I don’t need you anymore,” I thought, holding my brand new cellphone in my hand. “This has an alarm, too!”
The clock radio stared at me, sadly. But said nothing in its defence.
“I don’t need you anymore!”
It felt like an important growing-up decision and I was determined to stand by it.
Clutching my brand new (and very pretty) cellphone, I headed off to university leaving the clock radio behind.
My first morning in residence, I awoke to the beep, beep, beep on my cellphone alarm and, true to its purposes, I was really very alarmed.
I arose quickly, spurred by tremendous irritation, looking for the emergency. The rest of the day, I walked around snappish and disagreeable because my slumber was so oddly disturbed.
“There must be a gentler alarm,” I thought. “I’ll get used to it. Sure, I will.”
Through subsequent days, I explored other alarm settings but they all felt just as violent to the settled nature of my morning slumber. Ideally, I would like to be woken in the morning by a gentle kiss on my hand and a cooing whisper not too close to my ear.
That’s clearly not going to happen, but there must be some middle ground between that mid-morning utopia and my cellphone’s best impression of a fire alarm.
For weeks, the beep, beep, beep screamed at me from my dreams. The beep, beep, beep became like the death knell of a new day.
I tried hiding it in the bedside table’s drawer, but still it was: beep, beep, beep. Placing it across the room didn’t help. Beep, beep, beep. I would wake, sure, but I was furious!
“Why are you so jarring, cellphone?” I asked.
The cellphone stared at me, smugly. It said nothing worth noting.
Finally one morning my instincts resurfaced. When the bell of ultimate irritation rang its beep, beep, beep, I slammed my first down upon it to hit the snooze button and, through violence, buy myself twelve more minutes peace.
Of course, cellphones don’t have snooze buttons. Or, at least not ones so sturdy as my old faux wood panel clock radio.
Several hours later as I drifted slowly to wakefulness, I saw the smashed cellphone. Its screen splintered and cracked. The cellphone stared at me, dead. It no longer said beep, beep, beep. Now it would never say beep, beep, beep again. And I was out one cellphone.
I needed that gosh darned clock radio. Sure, waking up to the radio is banal and Trent Radio can be especially strange and random in the young hours, but at least it’s human, unlike the robot banshee screams of my now-dead cellphone.
The radio coaxes me out of bed, gradually, when I’d really rather be sleeping. And until I have someone to gently kiss my hand and coo me with not-too-close whispers, a clock radio will do.
“I missed you, old clock radio,” I think towards it, snuggled into bed.
The clock radio stares at me, happily. But still says nothing, and that’s probably best.