How to work a vintage electronic alarm clock
You wouldn’t think that a middle-aged boomer, who has been awakened by an alarm clock for more than 40 years, could have trouble setting an alarm clock.
What’s worse is that the stupid electronic box that serves as my morning wake-up call is not new. This little gray box of a headache is so old that I cannot remember when I bought it. 1998? 2003? I don’t know.
It was the only clock-radio that had numbers large enough for me to see 3 feet away. The visual display is great. It springs forward and falls back without me touching it. It has a back-up battery, so I never have to re-set the time. The alarm time is set, so all I’ve had to do for years is turn it on and off.
Fate has a wicked sense of irony.
As we got into the depths of January, my days were anguished by a sudden and terrible bout of the flu. We’re talking the high fever, confess-all-your-sins-I think-I’m-gonna-die flu. It was debilitating. It was exhausting. I also suspected brain damage.
When I realized I was far too sick to discuss research paper citations with college freshmen, I had enough insight to turn off my alarm clock so that it would not disturb my slumber.
What I did, or what I didn’t do, I can’t recall. What button I pushed wasn’t the button I should have pushed, and somehow the clock was beeping and buzzing in my ear 15 minutes later, just as I was about to fall into a much-needed deep sleep.
I tried to turn it off. Instead I got a high-volume blast of a radio station playing “Cat Scratch Fever,” and a not-so-kind nudge from my wife to “turn that thing off!”
I got the volume down, and shut off the annoying alarm, but now my numbers were flashing and I knew that wasn’t right. I clicked another button and an alarm light came on. Don’t need that, I thought, and pressed it again. The light went off but the numbers were still flashing. In my mind I envisioned myself in electronic alarm clock hell.
“I think you need to get the book,” my lovely wife says, looking over her shoulder.
“I no longer have the book,” I said, in my sick, raspy voice.
“You didn’t keep the book?” she asked.
“I don’t know where it is,” I say, frantically pushing any of the 12 different buttons that I pray will end this bedtime nightmare.
“Why didn’t you keep the book?”
Somehow, in all of the confusing configurations of button-pushing combinations, I happened to reset the time on the clock itself — making the time read 20 minutes ahead. After getting the flashing numbers to stop and the other noises silenced, I was far too tired to worry about a mere 20 minutes. I’m sick, I thought. I’m staying home. Time doesn’t matter.
This seemingly reasonable justification came back to haunt me two nights later, when Nancy was watching the clock (it’s got big numbers) to accurately judge the timing of a much-anticipated television program. Much to her chagrin, she missed 20 minutes of her movie.
“That clock isn’t set right,” she announced, clearly annoyed.
“I know,” I glumly said. “I’ll fix it.”
“I don’t know how,” she says. “You don’t have the book.”
In all these years I’ve only clicked one button, to turn the alarm either on or off. That’s all I need. That’s all I want. Ultimately I had to log onto the 21st Century’s self-help saving grace, YouTube, and found a Vintage Electronic Geek video to learn how to work the fancy features of an old electric alarm clock.
“Oh,” I said to myself while I watched how to operate my old clock. I learned things that are probably in the book that I don’t have.
I got the time re-set, the alarm re-set, and I’m back on track with the single on and off button that I hope and pray I’ll ever need. Simple, right?
My wife just rolled her eyes.
A freelance writer and photographer, Bernie Schmitt also is an assistant professor of English at Vincennes University. He lives with his wife, Nancy, and family in Vincennes.
By Bernie Schmitt