The alarm goes off. I think, “Fuck.” Hit the snooze. Nine minutes. The alarm goes off. I say, “Fuck.” Hit the snooze.
This is how my morning goes. Every morning that the alarm is set.
The alarm is a modern catch-22. Chances are if I’ve set it, it’s because I have to wake up. Not because I’m ready to, or want to, or got enough sleep. Because I have to. I hate my alarm. Loathe it. Feel nothing but the most acute animosity for it. And yet I need it. I hate it if it goes off. I hate it if it fails to go off. Damned if it do. Damned if it don’t. I feel like Yossarian every time it happens, except not as funny.
I use my phone as an alarm these days, replacing the foghorn like eeee-aaww many of us know so well from the digital clock days with the iPhone’s Xylophone tone, which actually sounds like an even creepier version of the theme from the movie American Beauty. So every morning I’m awakened to a tinkling sound that calls to mind the horror-show surface perfection and rotting subcutaneous depths of Kevin Spacey’s world in that film. Nice way to start the day, you may say? I’m one who needs a reason to get up and shut off the alarm, needs to be jarred, jacked, and racked into the day. I’m not a gracious riser.
Which is one of the reasons I use the snooze. Take the nine train. Like a Pavlovian reflex, that digital xylophone starts to ding dong and my arm shoots out and hits the snooze with such lightening fast ferocity that I wonder if that’s the quickest and most intense action I will take the entire day. And in fact it is. At least for another nine minutes. It’s sad to think my best moves are used in pre-consciousness to put off the waking world. But it is what it is.
Everyone has his own snooze-style. There’s the one-timers, those who need only use it once and not really to sleep, just to lazily open their eyes and make sure they’re moving soon enough. There’s the jugglers, those who vary the number of snoozes according to their feelings about the day to come or how much they had to drink the night before (or that morning). And then there’s the riders, those who will beyond all rational explanation hit the snooze for what seems like hours, catching fitful snippets of nine-minute naps with neither the satisfaction of uninterrupted sleep nor the slightly gratifying if groggy feeling of just getting the hell out of bed. (Yes, I know there’re people out there who set the alarm for exactly when they need to get up and then get up exactly when the alarm goes off, but I personally find this kind of annoying; their deterministic use of the alarm is alarming.)
During one of these daily doses of snoozication (or maybe during every single one), I wonder why every alarm I’ve ever owned had a nine-minute snooze. Why nine? Why not ten? Or eight? Or five? Or twenty? It seems to be oddly torturous, that nine. It’s not long enough to qualify as actual sleep, but anyone who’s hit that button knows it’s definitely enough time to start falling back to sleep. But just as you start to trip, flip, and tumble down the sleep slide, the alarm goes off and puts an end to the whole thing like a bad act on the Gong Show. In the exact moment the snooze ends and the alarm rings again, the button beckons like a crack dealer on a dark corner (not that I’d know), “Come on. One more hit won’t hurt.” And so I roll another nine.
I realize I could Google the reason for the nine-minute snooze. I’m sure there’s a totally rational explanation. One that makes sense and probably has to do with some uninteresting industry standard enforced by no one and now just “the way it is.” But I’m not going to look it up. Or believe what anyone tells me.
I’m going to believe that the snooze button was perfectly designed to entice people to use it. To abuse it. To beyond all logic keep demanding the world wait nine more minutes before they have to face it, like when my Mom would try to wake me up for Sunday church as a kid and I’d pretend to still be unconscious so maybe she would just leave me alone and let me sleep, which she never did. (The fact that it always failed never dissuaded me from trying it. Every. Single. Sunday.) I’m going to believe that a wonderfully philanthropic inventor from whichever era the snooze button belongs to bequeathed his inheritance and snooze-related royalty checks to the impoverished, overworked, underslept children of the world. That every time I buy nine minutes off the clock I’m doing something good. It’s basically the same principle as going organic. It doesn’t actually do what you wish it did, but you feel better about yourself.
So go ahead and ride the nine tomorrow. Once. Twice. Three times a Monday. There’s children awake in China.