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Friday, October 2, 2009

With Some Alarm

Four mornings a week, my husband gets up at 3:45 a.m. to exercise for an hour. I know, you just said “ugh” didn’t you—the same way I do when I don’t sleep through it. But hear me out.

Many years ago, his physician informed him that he was a victim of hereditary high cholesterol and that exercise was a critical component to keeping it in check. Back then he played basketball two nights a week, but per the Doctor needed more activity, so we bought a Nordic Track. Do you remember those? They were the first ever “ski machine” and were recommended for providing an unparalleled cardiovascular workout minus the damaging impact of running. For a while, we both used it, but some ache or other psychosomatic illness chased me away ages ago. My husband though, completes five miles on each of his four mornings. He worked the first machine to death, inherited another one second hand, and now since parts are pricey, jury rigs repairs when it gives out--a dog leash is currently doing service as a belt between the flywheels.

So what’s with the 3:45 thing, you ask? Well, the man leaves for work before 6:30 a.m. and doesn’t return home until after 7:00 p.m. The nasty wake up time allows him to work out early enough to get an hour on the machine, then take a quick shower and come back to bed to cool down for another hour before getting up for breakfast. The extra rest is the carrot he dangles in front to make himself get up in the first place. Makes perfect sense, right? Well, it does to him, and though there have been many occasions I’ve stuffed my head under the pillow when he gets up, I’m used to it. In fact I admire him, not only because of his diligence and dedication, but also because of the thing I can never—and we are talking over fifteen years of exercising here—understand.

He does this all without an alarm clock.

Alarm clocks. Let’s discuss them shall we? Both my husband and I are extremely nearsighted, and since we both can’t see, we have clocks on each side of our bed. Over the course of our marriage, I have relied on the radio alarm clock at my side to rouse me with music fifteen minutes before I have to rise. That way there’s a warning, the waking is soft. Fifteen minutes later, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to stumble into the shower. My husband though, goes back to sleep after his workout and rises on his own accord, still without the alarm. His clock is there for time keeping only. The music is all for me.

This summer my over-sized digital display clock radio (marketed to senior citizens, I’m sorry to say) began to lose accuracy, and with no need to get up for work—and our daughter’s job schedule starting later in the day, I stopped using the alarm too. Still I was up and dressed well before 7:00 and when a new clock appeared on my bedside table there was no need to set the alarm. Then school started and wake up time became a predawn 5:45 again and I was out of the habit of alarms. My husband’s automatic rising triggered my own wake up call—until he went to an early meeting one morning recently, and I overslept.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a technological guru, but generally if I read them out loud, I understand directions. This new alarm clock though has me flummoxed. Press “set” once, press “function” twice, hit the right arrow button until you get to “alarm” and you have five seconds to press “+” or “-” to arrive at the time you want before the darn thing goes ahead and sets itself. Day one with the alarm scared the, err, stuffing out of our daughter when the radio went off full volume at 6:40 p.m. and there was no one at that end of the house.

On day two with the alarm, I got the time closer but was in the shower when it blared. As a precaution, when adjusting it once again before I went to bed that night, I made sure to lower the sound.

Day three, who knows what happened. It didn’t go off. I vaulted out of bed when my husband woke me and stomped into the shower.

This morning, day four—it went off at the correct time all right—at full blast accompanied by expletives deleted out of me. Heart pounding, I gained a fuller appreciation of my husband’s capabilities.

There will be no day five. Our daughter uses her cell phone as an alarm and wakes up fifteen minutes after me. She’ll be the back up plan for days Tim has early meetings.

Other than that, I sleep next to Mr. Nordic Track. He’s the one born with an internal chronometer. He’ll have to wake me up. If he values his knee caps he'll give me a fifteen minute warning.

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