Getting Some Sleep
I stood in line at the emergency reception desk with my nightclothes in a trash bag and my large pillow with the duck feathers slung loosely under my arm.
"Are you with the sleep study?" All heads turned in curiosity at the pettiness of my problem. "Over there," the receptionist pointed with her eyebrows to a woman, seated by a phone, who lifted her eyebrows in return. I felt like a tennis ball that had been soft lobbed. Once again I was asked, "Are you with the sleep study?
A little man from floor #2 was summoned to take me to my room. He looked like a character out of "The Simpsons" --- an older Bart with a modified underslung jaw. I had to wait for his words, which seemed to have difficulty finding their way out from under his upper front teeth. He was my technician for the night.
I was wired from head to toe. Think of it as a full body EEG that would last eight hours. My left forefinger lit up like ET, when the juice was plugged in. Various masks were cupped around my mouth and nose with air generated through a tube and pump, giving me a Christopher Reeve look.
"Which works best?" The technician asked." "'mph gloph plucarum," I replied. I was left on my back, without a mask, and was told not to move. The technician promised further instruction through the speaker in the ceiling.
I thought about many of things. I remembered when taking my seat to pilot a vintage WW II bomber. My ROTC instructor spoke through earphones and had me believing that I could actually pilot a B-25 along a short stretch of highway. "Turn here." "Follow that car."
Somehow, I did.
We do these things and live to talk about it. The technician's voice reached me through a speaker in the ceiling after escaping his front teeth. The rules were given for the evening study. I could not understand the exact requests but I did my best to put on a show. He waved cheerily, "Have a good sleep." I wondered why they keep saying crap like that when the study has to do with my NOT sleeping. I waved my lit-up ET finger, realizing that I was already tracing a message on the monitor. How long could I stand this? Five minutes? An hour? This was torture, no doubt about it.
Life experience had prepared me well: high school study hall; standing at port arms with a 15 pound M-1 rifle, in military school; football wind sprints in the August sun; a night in Grand Central Station. I thought of the famous torture photos of Iraq prisoners and I stopped thinking about getting to sleep. The trick was getting through the ordeal.
They broke John McCain but they were not going to get anything out of this one. I waved my ET finger in the air and wrote messages. I sang scout songs and waggled my feet. Various animal noises seemed appropriate. Around 4:30, I had to go to the bathroom. "They won't get me on that," I vowed. Then my back began to have shootingpains.
"God this is just ridiculous," I said out loud to God. "Jesus Christ, this is terrible --- "I will give you my soul, anything to stop this." Nearing the cusp of revolution I began doing sit-ups.
My door opened and the light went on. The mask was slipped over my nose and the air pump was turned on. So that's the way it is, I thought. That is what they do to smart asses. I had been all of that. I have seen enough movies to know that I they would shut me up and that I would wake up in the presence of Punjab and the Asp.
Ok, so I slept for two hours.
"Like a baby," I was told. The technician concluded --- rather smugly, I thought.
"You have a serious problem with getting to sleep. I think that you should get the mask that just covers the nose."