Et came the moment when I felt downright disgusted by the presence of my cell phone in the bedroom. For years it had been on my bedside table as an alarm clock, then on the floor next to it, finally as far away as possible, charging next to the door – over time the cell phone had become a symbol of all the flaws and errors that ruled my bedroom every night : Above all, the insomnia that drove me insane, the dreams that never came, the lack of imagination, which I also blamed on the first wiper in the morning. On reaching for the ringing phone and the compulsive first glance of the day, which for a long time has not been out of the window and at the early-morning clouds in the sky, but on the aggressively glowing screen of my pocket computer and everlasting world mediator. And in this abyss of hyper-reality that awaited me on the phone, my ego was immediately lost in the first few seconds of the still young day. I had enough!
But would I have the strength to pull this off?
One thing was clear: I wasn’t alone. Today, many people are woken up by their smartphone. Just like cameras, landline telephones or maps, it has also made alarm clocks superfluous, because it is simply practical, has cool alarm sounds and is there anyway. Because it’s always there. For my wife, for example, it works wonderfully. She fiddles around with the thing before bed, texts with friends, checks her social media channels, orders all sorts of things, laughs her ass off at cute videos, puts it away and falls asleep immediately. I couldn’t, I was different. I increasingly felt the world that was waiting for me on my cell phone as an attack. I needed protection in the dorm room, I went out and bought an alarm clock.
Greetings from the past
Full of hatred for digital electronics, however, I couldn’t buy the product I actually had in mind – a contemporary, modern, modern alarm clock that is modern in its design and functions. For example, I had thought of a minimalist radio alarm clock that would wake me up in the morning with a broadcast on the pleasantly slow Deutschlandfunk and possibly with completely new options for snoozing that I hadn’t seen before. I had also heard of a wake-up light that very gently mimics the sunrise with a combination of sound and “wake-up lights”. I looked at them all in the store and just the glare of the numbers on the digital display put me in a bad mood.
Then I saw a small, analogue black alarm clock on the edge of the display and the past struck me deeply. Or did it come up to me from the bottom of my soul? I don’t know exactly, but that alarm clock connected to my younger self. I knew him. I had owned one for much of my childhood and adolescence. He rang me up while I was having all sorts of essential human experiences of my life for the first time, day and night. The model back then was white, this one is now black. But it even came in red and a nice, modern gray that I hadn’t seen before. I chose the classic model in black.
So I left the store with a Braun travel alarm clock, put it on the bedside table at home and stared at it lovingly. And I have to say it like this, and that’s why I’m writing this text, which is less text than a declaration of love: This alarm clock changed everything.
The beeping starts out soft and naive
The alarm clock is very well known. Designed in 1987 by Dietrich Lubs for Braun, obviously following the instructions of the great Braun designer Dieter Rams (“Less is more”) and at the time also advertised as a “table clock”, it found its way into many homes in Germany. In addition to the simple design, two small green splashes of color and the yellow second hand, which scurries across the dial like a cheerful ironic smile, are fun.
When I press the alarm clock in the morning, it makes a very banal “click”. The beep that woke me up earlier sounds like the very first beep in the world. But one should not deceive oneself. The beeping begins softly and naively, but if you let it, it soon rises to a louder and more agitated beeping, in the second step even to a roaring Karlheinz Stockhausen-esque minimal opera that really gets everyone awake . Compared to the alarm clock, the cell phone feels heavy and valuable in the hand, the ring tone sounds like it comes from a hi-fi system.
But this cell phone, it wants so much. I didn’t realize how much this cell phone wanted from you until it was gone. How easy everything became! As light as the funny cardboard alarm clock, the travel alarm clock, which is somehow also a children’s alarm clock. But it means something else to me, and it came to me on one of those new mornings when I just woke up and just lay there pondering, buying time. To me, the alarm clock means a strange, utopian idea of social democracy that has nothing to do with Olaf Scholz at all, but rather with some kind of common denominator, an enduring value, something that can be agreed on without a doubt. Something once taken for granted and now somehow lost. Maybe you could call it a sense of balance.
At least that’s how I feel in the morning with my new alarm clock. A feeling that I also have, for example, about my parents’ cheese slicer, who bought it for little money 40 years ago and still use it every day. It doesn’t break. This alarm clock, I imagine, will never break either. He doesn’t want anything from me, just tells the time. He himself has found his way around the times, has saved himself over time, he has long since left fashion behind him, so to speak. I look at him and feel connection. About my childhood, about Dieter Rams and about the time itself.
Gone were the “instinct times” of seafarers
Now you can say: pure nostalgia, a man who sentimentally flees into the past instead of stepping into the future. And maybe you’re right. But they’re also wrong, because since the alarm clock I’ve been living more in the present again. I hear the birds singing magically again in the yard where they seem to change the air. I notice a woman lying next to me! After putting my dreams on paper with a fountain pen, I jump out of the bed in which I slept soundly the whole night, full of joy. I only pick up my smartphone after breakfast, after exercising, maybe an hour or two after getting up. I’m alone in the bedroom and I can stand it. I owe everything to this alarm clock.
Now summer time is starting, get up an hour earlier, it stays light longer in the evening. It is not known exactly when the mechanical clock was invented. But quite a few think that they have changed the world more than the steam engine. Gone were the “instinct times” of seafarers, shepherds and farmers, which were still based on the natural interplay of weather and life rhythms. I think that might be the next step: without an alarm clock. Waking up according to the “internal clock”, learning to wake up by yourself. We still have a lot to do. See who you let show you the time.