NOTE: There’s symbolism somewhere in this piece, but I’ll let you decide what it represents.
Saturday afternoon, we lost power for a couple of hours. It was the second time a storm had knocked out our electricity in the past two weeks. An inconvenience certainly, but in the scheme of things (and by “scheme of things,” I’m referring to the world and all the events and problems that affect others in so many ways every day), it wasn’t a big deal.
It didn’t, however, stop me from getting just a little upset because, again, it’s an inconvenience, but also, when the power goes out, you don’t know how long it’s going to be out. I guess that’s the biggest source of tension, right? So, you light candles, refrain from opening the refrigerator, check electronic devices and hope they’re sufficiently charged, and then … you wait.
This time (unlike a couple weeks ago), it happened during the day. And this time (unlike a couple weeks ago), it only lasted two hours, rather than the better part of two days. By early Saturday evening, everything was back to normal for us; no harm, no foul, no dead phones or spoiled food.
What it did require of me – for the second time in two weeks – was resetting the clock-radio next to my side of our bed; the same clock-radio that I’ve reset after every power outage since my freshman year of college. (One doesn’t have to do the math to know that’s a long time.)
It’s the same clock-radio that accompanied me from college to several apartments (with a stopover at my parent’s house during my first two post-college years), and the two homes Joan and I have lived in since.
This morning, as I rolled over to check the time on its unflattering green display, something struck me. That clock-radio has been with me virtually every minute of my adult life; longer than just about anything else I own (save for a few childhood items I’ve kept just ‘cuz).
In the scheme of things (this time, by “scheme of things” I mean the course of our modern lives), I’m not sure it even serves a practical purpose. I mean, I don’t use it to play music, and I certainly don’t need it for my morning wakeup call. For those functions, I use my phone which, not coincidentally, sits next to the clock-radio every night. (And who am I kidding, my sleep patterns usually don’t wait for an alarm anyway.)
On Saturday, after power was restored, I went through the house, resetting the clocks that rely on electricity: the one on the oven, the one just above it on the microwave, and that faithful old clock-radio.
As I sat on the edge of my bed, I wondered what makes me hang onto this thing, with its buttons that stick, making it difficult to reset its time or tune into one’s radio station of choice. It still keeps perfect time, and the radio still works, but really, it’s a dinosaur, a relic, something to place in a time capsule, only to have someone 50 years from now pull out and with a puzzled look say, “I wonder how this thing works?”
After a few minutes of thinking, I couldn’t come up with a good reason why I still have it. On the other hand, I couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t keep it. It works, it’s been faithful, and I guess in some small way, it offers me a level of comfort knowing that when I roll over tomorrow morning, that clock will show me the correct time, just like it has for nearly 14,000 mornings so far … and counting.
That is, of course, unless the power goes out overnight. And that, friends, is why I keep my phone next to the clock. Now, many people – some much younger but even my contemporaries – might think it’s silly to keep this clock, especially when there’s new technology not only available, but sitting right next to it each night. And maybe it is silly. Maybe it’s nostalgic.
Or maybe I just have a special place for something that has been with me for so long, doing its job and never letting me down (well, almost never). Like my old baseball glove and a couple of special books I still have from my childhood, I think I’ll keep this old clock-radio and let it do what’s it done so reliably for so many years until it decides it’s done with me.
In the scheme of things, it’s the least I can do for an old, trusted friend.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw