On the difficulty of parting with my old alarm clock

by James Kelso

I get attached to things. Old things. New things? — well, sometimes. Things that I have looked over and over, and decided that today will be the last day for it – only to find that tomorrow, and the next day, the item lives on. I keep on telling myself that some of these attachments are ridiculous, like to a book from long ago, or a particular ruler, a birthday card which someone gave me in 1985, but some things just go TOO FAR. Like my old, white Sony Alarm clock, which I bought in David Jones in Melbourne, circa 1996. It is old, it is no longer white, it has a “St Vincent’s Hospital — Electrically Tested” sticker on the back, and it makes a small buzzing noise even when in normal

It has a red readout of numbers, and the face is angled towards the viewer, so it helps if the alarm clock is set slightly below from where you are looking on it. This suited me for many years, when it sat on my train-set in my bedroom at my parent’s house in Glen Iris. It was a very good alarm clock, and cost me the princely sum of $69.95, I seem to remember at the time, which was about the most I would pay for an alarm clock then. However, in turn that sum gave me a stylish and serviceable product, by the prime quality producer of alarm clocks (and most domestic electrical products at the time) – Sony.

It is hard to call the association one has between oneself and an alarm clock to be a “good” one most of the time, because at best these articles disturb our peace (and sleep), wake us up pre-naturally, with either the radio and/or a loud buzzing alarm, which usually signals a bad start to the day.

But seen in and of itself, this white coloured, red readout Sony alarm clock was a ripper. I later put some of Mum’s black library tape over the red display, so that I could look or not look at the display as I preferred. This helped me not worry myself through several angst-ridden nights where otherwise knowing the time would be a curse, not a blessing.

But nonetheless, alarm clocks, like people and houses, age, and eventually, we realise, that whether they have an iota of usage in them or not — after all, this Sony beauty still does function — that perhaps their time has come, and we must admit to ourselves — and perhaps to others also — that a similar, but improved version must eventually take its place.

This momentous moment in the life of my alarm clock recently came, when Carl, my partner’s father, bestowed upon me an even better (or at least in better condition) Sony alarm clock, with a dim orange readout and some tricky features. Oh, the joy! Of a free, working, good quality, replacement Sony alarm, clock.

I hesitated at first, not knowing if I really needed the said article, but after short consideration, realised that in fact I could at least consider the new addition, and compare it to that which I already owned. The grey, silvery exterior was enticing; it had five preset buttons for radio stations, two alarms, and some other lesser features. Also, when I tried it out, it did not have the old-age “buzz” of my off-white Sony 1996 clock radio, which I had to admit, was an asset. So after some consideration, and also the option of going out and buying a new alarm clock altogether, it seems that I am keeping my partner’s father’s old alarm clock, and now the time has eventually come – well – to think about, to consider what I will do with the faded cream Sony original.

I sat down with myself seriously, and thought. The future of the white 1996 Sony? What will it be? I first considered just throwing it in the bin. This seemed like a fairly sensible arrangement, but for the fact that I was attached to it and could not do so. Then, slightly later, I considered taking it to the council electronics recycling service — but that was in Vermont South, miles away, and the old electric toothbrushes (other bin-unsuitable discarded items which were to go with it) at the time could not be found. I later found them, soon after. Still, I couldn’t really be bothered travelling all the way to Vermont South, just to be a good “environmental citizen”. And yet an even better, more
“Win/Win” option was fermenting, just around the corner, so to speak.

In near desperation, and after explaining the situation to my mother, she suggested giving the cherished alarm clock to her, and her giving it to another lady who would pass it on to a charity helping African refugees. Ah, success! African refugees may want my now somewhat dilapidated, yet still functional Sony alarm clock. But wait, intrigue . . .  My new Sony orange display alarm clock does not have battery backup, so if the power goes out in the night (as it did in the storms yesterday), my plans of waking up on time may be disastrously thwarted. So perhaps . . . perhaps . . . the old white Sony alarm clock
still has a use as one with battery backup.

But wait. I can’t really claim that as a good reason. I already have yet another Sony alarm clock for the spare room, a white one with light green display. Instead of keeping the red one, I could instead just give it to the refugees through Mum, and move the light green one into my usual bedroom on important wake up mornings where the alarm clock couldn’t fail. Maybe I could get rid of my beloved red and off-white original Sony after all.

It would need a bit of cleaning up, as the library tape which shielded its screen has left some residue on the screen, which after years, would be very difficult to remove. It still makes a slight noise, and even I don’t know how I’m going to turn an off-white pearl alarm clock into a lighter, brighter, newer-looking one.

Maybe I won’t bother, just attempt a ‘she’ll do’ job on the clean-up, and finally hand it over to Mum for the refugees. Even then, it’s stretching it a bit. With it possible to get a new alarm clock for as little as $10, do I really think that my hoped-for grateful people will want it? Probably not, but at least it leaves me with the feeling that someone might have continued to love it as much as I did for all those years.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking. Nonetheless, it still leaves me with the dream-like feeling, that
although in reality it probably has gone straight into their rubbish bin, if it even made it that far, it leaves me with the feeling that it has acquired another life, of an African person pressing and prodding it and waking up to 774 ABC or SmoothFM. It is not the reality, in the end, that matters.

It’s the little thought-dream that I keep on repeating to myself, in its sad absence.