July 17, 2015 by

This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Magazine.

I get up every weekday morning at 10 minutes after three.

Let me repeat, it’s very dark, sometimes very cold, and always very, very, very, early in the morning when my alarm goes off. Did you get that? While you are snuggled in your bed, your brain happily feeding itself on REM-induced trances involving Bora Bora, tropical fish, and 100-proof rum concoctions garnished with mangoes and little umbrellas, I am being shocked into painful real-world consciousness by rude buzzing, cruel ringing, or cacophonous jangling.

I am a living case study in sleep deprivation.

I have been doing this (with only a few short intermissions) for 35 years. The dark-thirty (very, very early) alarm goes off. I get up. Over the years the implements of my self-induced torture have mutated. It began with an old Westclox Big Ben alarm clock. Not only did this device produce an audible ticking sound through the night, it went off like the bell at an old fire station, all the while hopping up and down like a hyper-excited wombat in a Warner Brothers cartoon from the ’40s.

Though highly effective in the finest medieval manner, another human being who had come to share my sleeping space voiced some objections to having her dreams so harshly terminated both by Big Ben and the muttered epithets that I naturally chose to accompany my rising. People can be so unreasonable. I was advised to move on to a more “humane,” modern device.

Ah, yes, the modern clock radio…the theory of this innovation was that the sleeper could be gently awakened by the strains of music as programmed by either an AM or FM radio station in the immediate locality. Sometimes the concept worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I opened my bleary eyes to “Stairway to Heaven.” Sometimes my bloodshot peepers were pried open by “Highway to Hell.”

And then there were the mornings the digital number card flipped with a click and a carpet commercial stuck its loud, ugly head directly into my slumbering visions to yell at me, “Time to get up, moron!” In those moments as I tried to rid myself of the subliminally implanted urge to buy new white shag for the family room, I wrestled with a new, wonderful temptation—the snooze button.

Wake up! Hit the snooze…wake up! Hit the snooze…wake up!  Hit the snooze…wake up! Get served divorce papers…wait…yes, snooze abuse has ended more than a few relationships. After all, there is no mention of having to put up with psychologically damaging, intermittent sleep interruption in wedding vows.

And there was another problem. My job through most of these past 35 years has involved me playing musical selections for a discerning morning audience. Music is my profession. It permeates every pore of my being. I love music. But music does not wake me up.

Next I tried one of those New Age natural sound generators that manufactured sounds ranging from gentle surf hissing on a sandy beach to a forest complete with mystical bird songs to a mountain ambiance that mimicked a breezy ridge line in the Andes. I was frequently late for work.

Nowadays, I am sent out into the world by my iPhone6 that can produce any number of sounds heretofore unimaginable to such mortals as I. I have settled on the “Last Words of King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding.” I now arise with a smile and, after my morning ablutions, head out into the pre-dawn world most people never get to experience—the world of bread truck drivers, die-hard party folk, and eight-hour-old convenience store coffee.

I am blessed. I get up every weekday morning at 10 minutes after three.

Otis Headshot

Clocks1

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