My plane lands in Paris and I collect my bags. It is not until I reach my hostel that the conundrum first hits me: my alarm clock will not wake me up. I bought a flimsy travel alarm clock before leaving without giving a second thought to how heavy of a sleeper I am. The question should not have been how much but will it wake me up.
The first morning I sleep in, which is in part because I was up until 2 a.m. but mostly because when my alarm went off at preciously fifteen minutes before the end of free breakfast it did not wake me up. This was going to be a problem.
I moved onto Bordeaux and wandered the streets looking for a clock that would be both portable, and loud and annoying to no avail. I also learned that the French word for clock employs various sounds that I struggle with and my attempts to ask for an horloge unsuccessful and frustrating. I left clockless.
I started using my iPod touch as a clock, which was somewhat successful. It woke me up when it needed to until another tragedy struck. I left my charger plugged into the wall at my hostel in Brussels. I have spent vast sums of money replacing chargers that were lost in this manner and decided not to replace only to have it stop working a week later when I went to the U.K. I was left clockless once again.
I adjusted to using my original and highly ineffective clock. I had no early trains and nothing particularly urgent to do in Brugges. Slowly the problem slipped from my mind. One day I turned the opposite way from my usual route out of my hostel and low and behold was a clock store. A shining palace of magnificence that had eluded me for so long. I went in and asked the woman working there if she had a clock that was small and unbelievably annoying and she said why yes she did. I bought the clock and its particular pitch of beep — the beep of an alarm clock is quite possibly the most loathsome sound in the English language — has been waking me up in hostels and hotels ever since.