How To Tell Time When You Can’t See The Alarm Clock

This baby dreams of becoming a fat middle-aged man with a job at a newspaper.
This baby dreams of becoming a fat middle-aged man with a job at a newspaper.

When I get the urge to complain how I “didn’t sleep at all last night,” I try to first ask myself this question: do I really own a dark brown moleskin jacket with the price tag still attached? If the answer is no, then I probably wasn’t up all night, exactly. Still, if it feels like it was all night, I might complain anyway. That’s where my wife can set me straight. I couldn’t have been awake all night because she was awake listening to me snore all night. But was she really? She needs to ask herself: did she really attend an all-night cocktail party in a giant treehouse? If the answer is no, then she probably wasn’t awake listening to me snore …all night, at any rate.

True story. I went camping last weekend and didn’t sleep all night long. In the middle of the night I heard a man and a woman whispering outside the tent about how they were going rob me. I had to call 911 from way down in my sleeping back so they wouldn’t see the light from my cell phone. I believed the whole thing actually happened until the next morning. Yes, it was the most dangerous of dreams - the dream that you’re lying awake in bed.

Oh, I could go on forever about dreams, but I started out meaning to talk about my horrible insomnia. See, sometimes I really can’t go to sleep. If I go to bed before midnight, for example, there’s a great chance that I’ll be wide awake, lying in bed at 4am. Of course, I won’t know what time it is because I can’t see the clock. For some reason, you really care what time it is when you’re lying awake in bed, so here are some of my tricks to see how late it is.

1) The Glass of Ice Water. I leave a glass of ice water on the stack of books by my bed. If I wake up and the ice hasn’t meleted, then it’s still fairly early. If I’m awake for a while and the ice all melts, it’s really late. In fact, I may have been awake nearly all night long - unless I’m not really best friends with Tatum O’Neal, in which case I probably slept a little.

2) Hip Hop Man. There’s a guy who drives down my street at exactly 1:30 am every night, blasting his heavy bass hip hop stereo. You could set your watch by it. Where is he going? Why is it always the same point in the same song every time he drives by? Does he know it’s annoying? Why were there all those pocket knives on the ground at the cemetary?

3) The Neighbor’s Sprinkler System. The Neighbors with the really nice lawn have their sprinkler system timed to turn on at 3am. I’ve heard that watering at night encourages root rot, or something like that, but damn their lawn looks fine. Still, it’s 3am and I’ve been up all night. Did I remember to seal off the attic from the cats? Hm, cats.

3) The Birds. There are a bunch of cheerful birds that start singing it up at about 3:30 am. Why do they do that? I don’t know. It’s still dark outside. I can almost make out what they’re saying… “Someone’s coming,” they chirp. “Put the chains over the windows before they see you.”

4) The Sun. OK. Now I’ve really been up all night. Or… was I?