Each month, I write a column for Transistor (http://www.transistormag.com) called CTRL+ALT+DULUTH. (Yes, it plays on the "duh-LOOT" pronunciation.) Below is the text from the final printed entry:
I’m guessing that, like me, most of you don’t thrill to the sound of your alarm clocks each morning. After all, if you had something truly worth waking up for, the anticipation alone would probably negate the need for an alarm.
Rather than sounding the clarion call for another day of basking in our self-made Edens, most alarms function more like the jangling keys of a gaoler – yanking us from our escapist reveries and locking us back into our joyless routines.
Now, imagine if this sound came two full hours before you had to get up. Imagine that it emanates not from your clock, your partner’s or even your roommate’s. Imagine, instead, that it’s not even coming from inside your house. Imagine that, to stop it, you’d have to kick down your neighbor’s door, rush up the stairs at two per stride and hack the clock into a hundred pieces with an ax.
Such are the charms of sleeping with the windows open during summer. It’s an especially cruel business here in Duluth. We spend months smearing semi-toxic goop and gunk into every crack in our houses, sheathing windows in clear plastic film, and lining door jams with rubber gaskets. We breathe recycled air rife with the amplified odors of wet socks, damp rugs and over-stuffed kitchen trash cans.
We do this with the understanding that, for perhaps 10 weeks each year, we’ll be able to throw those windows wide open and allow cleansing Canadian and Lake Superior breezes to sweep out the dank, dust and dander during the day and provide cool, fresh envelopes of slumber at night.
You’d think that braving winter’s brutalities would be payment enough for the simple delight of sleeping next to an open window. Instead, opening the window opens an entirely different can of worms: the flatulent engines of beater cars and motorcycles, the booze-soaked cackles of every gaggle of drunks that stumbles by, and, in my case, the sound at 5 a.m. of a neighbor’s alarm clock.
After a week or so, you can probably recalibrate your senses to ignore or quickly recover from disruptions like the first two above. The alarm, however, is a different animal. For most of us, the hard-wired mixture of startle and dread delivered by its insistent sonic prodding cannot be so easily brushed aside. (That’s why so many TV ads now use the sound to grab your attention. God damn no-count broke-a$$ baby-shaking m*therf*ckers…)
Making matters worse, in my situation, is that NOBODY TURNS THE F*CKER OFF! Frequently, it beeps for 10 minutes or more. I’m not talking about multiple “snoozes”, either. I’m talking about 10 unbroken minutes of grating, syncopated torture.
Sadly, I have some prior experience with this phenomenon. At one of my former apartments, a neighbor’s alarm beeped for four days. She forgot to turn it off before leaving for a long weekend, and it didn’t have an auto shut-off. Needless to say, I didn’t like her very much after that.
Which brings me to my current dilemma: Right now, I like my neighbor – and I’d prefer to keep it that way. So how to broach the subject of the bleating alarm? Annoying as it is, it still seems like a very personal thing to bring up in porch-to-porch chit-chat. (So, when did you stop sleeping in your bedroom?)
Earplugs won’t work, as they will negate the effectiveness of our home security system (which currently is the 90-year-old wood floor).
Got a solution? Post it as a comment below. The most creative one wins a sixer of Lake Superior beer.