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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Alarmed, I’m Sure

When one has just returned home from a vacation — as, it so happens, one just has — one faces many challenges in assimilating back into a routine. Fighting jetlag, for instance. Unpacking. Washing filthy unpacked clothes. Heaving empty suitcases into the back of the closet. Scarfing down souvenir candies intended for the office. That sort of thing.

But the single most difficult task in wrapping up a vacation is getting back to the routine of the workaday office grind. Particularly the schlepping out of bed at ungodly single-digit A.M. hours to clean up and shuffle toward work. And without the benefit of room service breakfasts in bed, or fresh bloody Marys served from a swim-up bar. It’s inhumane, to say the least.

Of course, when I’m confronted with a conundrum like how to manage rising early for the first time in a week, I do what I always do in complicated situations. I make things more complicated.

“Easy things get hard, hard things turn damned near impossible, and the already-unpossible becomes totally inconceivable, with a likelihood of grievous bodily harm.”

(That’s just how I roll, apparently. Easy things get hard, hard things turn damned near impossible, and the already-unpossible becomes totally inconceivable, with a likelihood of grievous bodily harm. Because where’s the fun in ‘simple’?)

So naturally, I chose the first full night back — and the eve of an important early-morning meeting — to swap out the alarm clock on my nightstand for a new model. A different model. And not one that I’d ever used before.

I made the change in the evening, and then set about doing all the washing and heaving and scarfing usually associated with the end of vacation. Several hours later — in the wee hours of the morning, and well past my intended bedtime — I finally hit the sack, and reached over to set the alarm clock ticking to wake me up.

Only I didn’t know how. Who reads the instruction manuals for these things? Seriously, please. I figured it had to be self-explanatory, once i could see all the buttons and poke around a little bit. So I turned on my bedside light for a looksee.

(That woke up my wife, of course. She’d been asleep for hours, and woke up in a panicked daze. I assured her that the house wasn’t on fire, the aliens weren’t invading and the Redcoats weren’t coming to get us — just to cover all the bases — and tucked her back in. Then I had a go at setting my new alarm.

It took a few minutes, but I eventually fiddled and futzed with the device until I was reasonably sure I had an alarm set for the time I wanted. And I nestled down into the bed for a too-short nighttime snooze.

But I didn’t snooze. I lay awake anxious, worried that maybe I’d cocked up in setting the alarm. What if it didn’t wake me up? What if the volume was accidentally turned down? Had I set P.M. instead of A.M.? Would the buzzer only sound in the Greenwich Meridian Time Zone? I was haunted by these questions, and this new, non-battle-tested possibly-defective gizmo. But short of a dry run — which my snoozing wife would NOT appreciate — I had no way to have confidence in my up-gettingness.

So I lay awake, staring mortified at the ceiling when I should have been sleeping, worrying over how and whether — and to a large degree, why — I was going to crawl out of that comfy bed with the chickens in the morning. Eventually, exhaustion got the better of me and I drifted off to sleep, to await the fate of the alarm’s near-dawn chirping.

My brain, however, wouldn’t let it go so easily. Full of punctual and vinegar, apparently, it shook me awake into a frothy panic an hour later, wondering if I’d missed the alarm altogether. I checked the time. Nope, all clear. So I drifted back to sleep.

And woke up again, just as anxious. I found I’d slept for just twenty minutes, and still had a couple of hours to go. So I rolled over for another nap.

This one lasted five minutes, and again I was awake. I cursed my misplaced vigilance, shut my eyes tight and willed myself to fall asleep in the scant precious time I had left.

I didn’t fall asleep, of course. I may have pulled an eyelid muscle or two, but no more sleep was forthcoming. There was no way that new alarm and my funky untrusting brain were going to result in any more shuteye that night. Some worrisome, neuron-wringing part of me was just too vigilantly smart for its own stupid good. I briefly considered a targeted self-lobotomy. But my wife told me never to stick a wire hanger up my nose unless I know exactly what I’m doing, so I abandoned that notion.

Beaten and bleary-eyed, I stumbled out of bed — mostly because there seemed to be no other way around it. It wasn’t until I’d showered, dressed, primped, preened, brushed, combed, rinsed and spat that my original target ‘uppy time’ finally rolled around.

And with it, like the clockwork it literally was, the alarm that I’d set the night before, blaring dutifully in the general direction of anyone with ears to listen. Nothing to worry about, it turned out — this alarm is a-ok, after all.

Of course, it was also a pain in the ass to turn off. So I spent ten minutes enduring the insistent *beep*-ing while I tried to shut it up. Eventually, I unplugged the damned thing — the better to save my delicate eardrums from harm, it turns out. Tonight, when I got home from work, I plugged the alarm clock back in, reset the time, adjusted the alarm, and have everything back to just-how-I-want-it. It’s all perfect; nothing more could possibly be required.


When it was time for bed again, I couldn’t help wondering about that alarm. Did I reset it just the same way this time? Maybe I mixed up the radio and CD settings? If my alarm rang in a forest, would I ever hear it? Sickening possibilities skittered through my head, unbidden and unstoppable. This new clock, meant to replace my crappy old one, was becoming the death of me.

So I did the only sane and rational thing I could. I cancelled all my morning meetings for the rest of the week, unplugged the clock again, and got some damned sleep. With the pressure thus off, I might sleep til noon, but hey — I might also sleep til noon. If I can just keep the klaxons in my head from sounding every ten jittery minutes, that is. If I ever find my internal ‘Snooze’ button, I’m Super-Gluing that thing down.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll take another week’s vacation, if only for the rest. Sometimes the best way to get back into ‘the grind’ is to run the hell away again. Or to buy an alarm clock that you can actually believe in.

All in all, that wire hanger idea is looking pretty good about now. Nighty-night.

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