Phone buttons glow in the dark

Because I get up for work at 4:15 on weekdays, I was in a deep, dreaming sleep this morning at 1:10 a.m.

That’s when the phone rang.

In order to cut through any music playing during the day, and because I may have played my guitar a little too loudly in my youth, our phone is set to a somewhat piercing ringtone. In the middle of the night, it’s especially startling.

But at that hour, any sort of call can make your blood run cold. My heart began pounding wildly as Amy picked up the handset and answered, “Hello?”

I could hear only the faintest voice coming from the phone.

My mind started racing though family and friends, wondering who had died, or who been hurt or fallen seriously ill. I started preparing to visit an emergency room — possibly even as a patient, since my heart was pounding so hard.

Amy said nothing for the longest time. She just listened, and then finally relayed, “Missing child on Carlisle. 8 years old. Missing since 6:00 last night.”

We had just been awakened by an automated phone call from the Racine Police Department at 1:10 in the morning about a missing child in another part of town. Unfortunately, we had not seen the child in question because we live in another part of town, and it’s dark at 1:10 a.m., and our curtains were drawn, and our eyes were closed because we were sleeping.

At some point, warnings and alarms and alerts become more annoying than effective if they are sounded too frequently. I’m sure even car alarms must have seemed like a good idea once upon a time, and I know that the AMBER Alert system has produced some remarkable successes, but we’re reaching a level where these notices interrupt TV and radio and now apparently even sleep on an almost daily basis.

On the one hand, I felt awful because someone’s child was missing. But seriously, what I am supposed to do at 1:10 a.m.? Jump out of bed like a firefighter and go out with a robe and a flashlight to scour the city? A couple of months ago, much of the East Chicago, Indiana community was out all night searching for a missing kid who was finally found right in his own home. Many of these cases turn out to be bitter custody disputes that I really don’t want to jump into at 1:10 a.m. Am I being heartless?

Meanwhile, although this situation was important enough to warrant presumably waking an entire city, I can find nothing about it on the Racine Police Department Web site. There’s no mention of it in the local news and nothing at Amber Alert Wisconsin either.

If we’re really supposed to pay attention to these things, the details — and any eventual resolution — should be readily available somewhere so we citizens can reference them when we’re fully conscious: What address, again? What was he wearing? Has he been found?

I finally got maybe another hour of sleep before 4:15 rolled around and my alarm went off, which was five minutes before the street cleaner came past our house with its flashing lights and shrill backup beeps.

I guess Racine is one of those cities that never sleeps.

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