I recently discovered that the sound of a rooster crowing makes my subconscious immediately fire signals along the negative thought neurons across my brain. It makes me think of the cold and a sense of impending doom. The reason for this is, simply, that the alarm clock on my mobile phone has a ringtone that goes "screech, screech-screech, screeeeeech", something evidently supposed to resemble, although it doesn't seem like it in writing, a bright cock-a-doodle-doo, and I have been conditioned to dread the noise.
Every morning, just as I've managed to get to sleep after the six billionth sheep has jumped over the stile, this musical monstrosity is set off. Screech, screech, screech, it warbles, and dissolves into a sort of chicken-dance inspired jig. I bury my head under the pillow. It screeches some more. I poke a tentative toe out of my nice warm duvet. It's usually freezing - either the AC's been on all night or we've been having Arctic weather across the UAE, as we have recently, so I run across the room to slam the snooze button and sink back into bed.
The process is repeated about five times, so I've taken to setting the alarm a half-hour before I want to wake up. Mornings have got to be teenagers' least favourite time of day. In the afternoons you've got the coming back from school to look forward to, and in the evenings you have mall jaunts or equivalent and then going back to sleep to look forward to. In the mornings all you can possibly hope for is to run tearing all over the house looking for socks, which the washing machine seems to have swallowed, all 14 of the black pairs I own, and then running hollering after the almost-missed school bus.
Breakfast is always a dodgy affair because I can't have any without reading something. This means that the newspaper must have arrived and I must be able to have the third editorial under my nose before I can so much as touch the box of Special K. It's not my fault. For the millennia my parents have been alive, they have been waging war on TV dinners. The idea of so many kids glued to the idiot box while eating is, according to them, a symbol of all the ills of the 21st century, from global warming to social networking sites.
And so began phase one of the retaliation against watching TV while eating in our house. The theory was that if you made a kid read a newspaper while eating, they'd be too engrossed in looking at the Dow Jones Index or whatever to care about the thrillers or romcoms enticing them from the small screen. Not that the TV would be switched on, of course. If it could be helped, the remote control would be concealed in an appropriately difficult-to-think-of place too, for good measure. The result is that out of pure habit, I scowl around at the breakfast table rubbing crusty eyes and ignoring congealing porridge until the thump of the newspaper is heard outside the door, making me more than a trifle late.
In fact, I don't know how I manage to arrive in one piece to school at all. It's become a customary ritual to have the bathroom door banged by mum every couple of minutes. There's something rather peaceful about finishing up all the hot water in the shower, detachedly thinking about the meaning of life. This is accompanied by some tuneless humming of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and listening to a disembodied voice floating in saying something vaguely like "And now it's 6.28am, I'm not driving you anywhere if you miss the bus..."
It gives you a smug feeling to know that the driving threat is an empty one, especially if you sadly mumble back how much you were looking forward to the physics test and isn't it a pity you'll just have to do it another time?
The walk to the bus stop should be pleasant enough; the freshness of dawn still lingers and there's a tree-lined, duck-filled lake on the way. It is, however, punctuated by any number of sudden realisations that I've left my calculator, maths homework or guitar at home.
"Can I get the house keys, please?" I wheedle, hopping anxiously on one foot. What follows is a stony lecture about responsibility. And they claim it's me wasting all that time as the reason for being late so often.
Still, when the bus finally does arrive, and we've mercifully managed to intercept it, a cheery sight meets the eyes. A string of yawning teenage student-occupied cars desperately tailing the bus, all having missed it at their own respective stops, hoping to catch it at the next one. At least I'm not alone.
The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai
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