Herald and Journal, April 3, 2000

A perfect place for bright lights


I admit it. I made a mistake.

I never should have bought that new clock radio. The one with the foot-high green numerals that defiantly pry my eyelids open and glare into my eyeballs when I'm trying to sleep at night.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit.

So why did I buy it? I was in the throes of desperation. I had to replace the ancient clock radio that had been sitting on my night stand for at least the last 15 years. It was either that or erupt some night and pitch the thing against the wall.

That clumsy, old behemoth took up half the night stand. Yes, for many mornings, without fail, it had sent us sleepily off to the barn. Then, little by little, it began to wear out.

First, there was the humming noise. In the middle of the night it would suddenly emit a loud hum. If I reached over and slapped it on the top, it would quiet down.

The next thing to go was the second alarm. You could set the alarm to wake you up to music, and then after nine minutes, it would buzz to remind you to get up.

I would lay there listening to the guys on WCCO talk for a while before I rolled out of bed. If I fell asleep again, the buzzer jolted me back to reality.

Then, the buzzer quit buzzing. The radio would come on, but the buzzer never sounded after the nine-minute interval. I pretended that getting myself up without the extra nudge would work just fine. I only overslept a few minutes, once or twice.

Before long the old derelict developed a new habit. It started grinding its teeth at night. Maybe it was something about the mechanism for the defective alarm that caused the noise. Most of the time it ground away quietly. Some nights, though, it ground loudly and incessantly.

Because the clock radio was perched about a foot away from my head, the sound kept me awake. After several nights of this, I took the grinding time-keeper and plunked it down on the desk across the room. It was on Tom's side, then. After all, he said the noise didn't bother him.

"If the clock radio bothers you so much, why don't you buy a new one?" he asked with irrefutable logic.

The next day I went shopping for a replacement at Target. There were several different clock radios on display with various features and prices. Would a $49.99 clock radio last longer or perform better than a $12.99 clock radio?

Do I want the Weather Alert feature?

Do I want green numerals or red numerals?

Where is "Consumer Reports" when you need them?

I studied the different features, types of alarms, how to set them, etc. Of course, they were on the clock radio I really wanted. I took my second choice. It was in the median price range, and had two alarm settings, which I thought would be useful. The numbers on the clock were larger than most.

I was a bit troubled by that. They were about three inches high, and green. The old clock had much smaller white numbers. There were two settings for brightness. Standing there in the glare of the store lights the numbers didn't seem all that bright.

Could I have been more wrong? I have more room on the night stand with this new, little beast. I push it to the farthest corner. Even set on the dimmest setting, it is like having a neon sign hanging over my head. The clock may as well be flashing "Eat At Joe's Diner."

Tom keeps asking me to stop turning the clock face away from the bed.

"When I wake up in the middle of the night, I can't tell what time it is," he complains.

"I could put the clock radio on your night stand so that you can see it better," I reply, sweetly.

"If you didn't like it, then why did you buy it?," he declares.

There's that logic again.

"I do like the two alarm settings. I just don't like being bathed in bright, green light when I'm trying to sleep," I complain.

Last night I was setting the radio back to WCCO in preparation for the morning wake-up call. I accidentally pushed the clock over too far and it landed in the waste basket.

At last, I found the perfect place.

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