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There are thirteen controls on my alarm clock.

Not usually a problem, because I only use the alarm about once a year. Luckily, on the one day of the year when I need an alarm, I have twelve pages of instructions for setting the alarm.

This reminds me, as so many things do in this day and age, of something P.J. O’Rourke once wrote in a car review.

“There are three things mankind did not need to improve - beer, sex, and radios you tune with a knob.”

Here’s the deal. My wife and I had medical appointments in a city about two hours from our house. Nothing serious – if you own a ‘66 Chevy you need to clean the sparkplugs and adjust the tappets every now and then. I’m a ‘54 model, and my tappets were a little noisy.

Our first appointment was at 8:00. Do the math. It’s a two-hour drive in good weather, it’s February in Minnesota (which mocks the concept of good weather), the time needed to perform my beauty regime...bottom line, I needed to be up and motivating a little before 5:00 a.m.

I don’t need an alarm clock to wake up at 5:00, but if I don’t use one, I wake up every hour thinking, “Oh no! Did I oversleep?”

This is not as restful as it sounds.

I had plans for a solid six hours of sleep, but then I tried to set the alarm clock.

When I think about alarm clocks, I picture a clock with a dial and two knobs on the back, one for setting the time and one for setting the alarm. You spin the alarm hand to where you want it, then pull the knob out. When it goes off, you cuss, sit up, and push the knob in.


A termite could set that clock and get it right.

I don’t have that one anymore. I have a new, better one, with thirteen controls and twelve pages of instructions.

To be fair, four of the buttons are for noises that sooth you to sleep. Those four noises are nothing like gentle rain, ocean waves, or forest nights, and the one called white noise just sounds like static to me.

So that leaves only nine controls to manage the time and alarm, none of which are labeled with actual words. Instead, each button has a teeny tiny drawing next to it and I didn’t understand any of them.

But remember - twelve pages of instructions.

Twelve tiny pages with itsy bitsy writing I couldn’t read them without my glasses.

I have only one pair of glasses. If I’m not wearing them, they're next to my wallet and phone on the right side of my desk. My desk is in the opposite corner of our house, on a different floor from the bedroom. I counted today – it's 57 steps from my side of the bed to where I can reach the glasses. That means 228 steps. Fifty-seven to get the glasses, 57 to bring them to the bedroom, 57 to take them back to the office so I don’t forget where I put them, and then 57 to get back into bed. That was roughly 210 steps more than I was willing to take, so I squinted and tried to use logic.

Actual logic would have been an alarm clock with a dial and two knobs.

I spent some time setting the hour and minute. In the process of pushing controls, I set off the soothing noises several times. They did not put me to sleep, nor did the muffled giggling from the other side of the bed.

After what many would consider an excess amount of fiddling, I finally got the correct lights to light up, put my head on my pillow, and after an hour or two of seething, fell asleep.

I don’t know if I set the alarm correctly, because the next morning I woke up five minutes before it was supposed to go off.

I’m calling it a win.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson


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