When I returned to the UK in the mid 90s, a new sign had sprung up all over the place. WARNING! It cried, DOOR ALARMED. This never failed to make me chuckle as I pictured a sympathetic group, huddling around the door, talking in whispers to ease its anxiety.
The morning, however, I was that door. My husband had to work this morning and I was to drive him into work – he does not drive and there are no trains on a public holiday that run early enough to get him in on time. I knew it was going to be an early start, but sometimes, if I am lucky, my husband will wake before the alarm, creep out of bed and only wake me at 5.30 am when he is just about ready to go. All I have to do is get into my jeans and jumper, get the dogs into their harnesses and start the car. This is good because it allows me to spend the maximum time possible in bed and because it prevents the alarm going off on my husband’s phone – it is very loud and never fails to make my entry into the early morning darkness a violent one.
Last night he was sitting poised over his mobile phone, looking at it glumly.
‘What is the matter?’ I asked.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I am just wondering. If I set the alarm for 4.30 am, then I am going to wake up fifteen minutes early anyway. Maybe I should just set it for quarter past.’
‘Or,’ I suggested, ‘set it for quarter to five, then you will wake up at 4.3o am and if you don’t, I am driving you in anyway so we just leave a few minutes later.’
I am not sure what time he chose in the end, but a loud insistent polyphonic shriek woke both me and him from our respective slumbers. In the pitch black, he grappled for the off switch and I heard him throw the silenced phone back onto the bedside table. That had been unpleasant. I thought I must still be dreaming too, because I could hear what sounded like a man’s voice coming from inside a small jar. We both let out a string of expletives at the rude awakening.
Almost instantly the alarm started again, scaring the living day lights out of both of us.
‘I must have missed the button!’ he yelled.
‘Christ!’ I yelled back, ‘Please make it stop, it is so loud.’ I reached for the light switch as I heard him fumble for the phone again. My clock said 4.30am.
Except it was not the alarm. It had been his boss phoning, hence the tiny man in the jar trying to communicate with us as we swore ourselves awake. The call was to tell him that there was a change of service for today and he would need to be away overnight.
This could only mean one thing. As quiet as he tried to be, I knew even as I struggled to get a few more minutes’ sleep that my time in bed was over. I finally gave up about ten minutes into the creeping around when he came into the bedroom and started fumbling about in the wardobe in the dark.
‘Just put the light on, it’s OK, ‘I said.
‘Kettle is on – want a cuppa?’ He replied.
The dogs knew straight away something was up and immediately started rushing around in circles trying to look purposeful, but actually just making sure neither of us left the building without them. I drank a mug of tea, got them ready, and we loaded the car with overnight bag and an esky that he normally fills with salad and stuff, but today had been rammed with iced coffee drinks and TimTams.
‘That was so weird’, he said as we drove in, ‘I assumed when the phone sounded that it was the alarm but it was my boss. He must have thought we were mad.’
‘Well if he will insist on ringing at the same time you have set your alarm, he has only himself to blame,’ I reasoned.
I dropped him off in the pitch black, then walked the dogs around the park, trying to make sure I spotted any cats – who are generally still prowling around at that time – before Lucy. I was home by quarter past six and the public holiday was ahead of me.
I went back to bed and slept like a teenager until 9am.