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16 Aug Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Three Things I Fear Most

These three things do I fear most: the sound of an alarm, workdays (except Fridays), and deadlines.

Sounding Off

For someone who has resolved to wake while it is yet dark à la the virtuous woman, crawling out of the duvet every morning to find the room filled with sunlight was frustrating, hence the recourse to the alarm. The submission to this mechanical guidance was an admission of my inability to rise from slumber at a purposed time.

The clanging of an alarm clock early in the morning is the most unbearable sound there is at that hour. In the quietness of dawn, it always sounds a pitch too high and there is a novelty to its tone each day so I never become accustomed to it. The alarm startles.  It has neither courtesy nor mercy. It goes off at the set time, not minding that I may have been dreaming, and in the dream I had just been served a generous portion of pounded yam with egusi soup, or that I had just met my knight in shining jeep. The switch from wonderland to earth can be extremely jarring and painful.

In a sense, the word portends danger. It is also a threat. It says wake now or miss the interview, be late for an appointment, be late to work...there are consequences if disregarded. To wake or not to wake, it’s hard to decide. In the interval of contemplation between, a rooster crows and ends the debate but the will to drag oneself out of bed is lacking.

Out of zeal sometimes I set the alarm to 2.00 a.m., to wake and read or write, but that has turned out to be the ultimate self-delusion. When it goes off, I find myself impatiently groping for the dismiss button. The midnight alarm may be the most spurned sound in history but its cousin, the reminder, is generally better appreciated because it does not insist on being listened to at hours when men ought to sleep. It is gentler and less imposing, simply prompting on scheduled events and activities.

Thank God It’s Friday

I love Fridays though it is a workday. In reality, it is a half-day. If there are journeys to be made, they begin on Friday. After Jumat Prayer, work shuts down. It is not a statute, but in Nigeria norms are more potent than the constitution. The brain, too, is in the process of shutting down—it has only the power to strategise for a fun weekend. The excitement never wears, which explains the abundance of TGIF tweets. In the end the joy of anticipation is greater than the total fun gotten on weekends.

While Sunday is for worship, Saturday has no theme, all miscellaneous tasks are pushed into it and they all fit in. On Sunday evening, it would be discovered too late that weekends are not as long as imagined. Upon sober reflections, it is found that total work done amounts to nought. Every hour of idleness will be accounted for on judgement day, Monday. By midweek I am relaxed and riding on the routine wagon. Panic mode returns on Thursday, with the thought, the week is going, almost gone, still, I am yet to do anything substantial.

Unfinished Manuscripts

Now, deadlines. They bring out the cliché in me and make me resort to cheap, worn tricks just to get to the end of the story. It is easier with fiction; create unlikely coincidences or pull off a dues ex machina, the end. For non-fiction, there are no easy exists. At this point, one’s reputation is given less consideration. Failure to submit on deadline hints not just at slothfulness, but more shameful, it raises questions about one’s ability. If I knew what to do and how to do it, it wouldn’t take so much time right?

These things which I greatly fear often come upon me all at once: the sound of an alarm on a Monday morning on which I have exceeded my deadline. On such mornings when I hear the alarm say it is time to face the gallows, I become incapacitated by anxiety. There is just no time for redemption, so I spend my last hours browsing celebrity love stories. Jason Derulo and Jordin Sparks are a favourite.

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