Tag Archives: sleep

Next Time, I’ll Hit Him Sooner

I adore traveling. I just wish I could bring my bedroom with me. Yes, I am one of those obnoxious people who requires a meticulously controlled environment in order to sleep.

Humble Hubris: portable bedroom

However, the lure of lush, rolling Irish fields and fresh Parisian baguettes proved stronger than my lust for sleep, so my friend and I trotted off to Europe with our American-sized backpacks stuffed with travel essentials: Cliff bars and grandiose, overly-romantic expectations.

Humble Hubris: travel naive

First stop: the bonny hills of Ireland.

First misconception shattered: English is English, wherever you go.

Hoping to ease into the foreign language experience by commencing our European jaunt with an English-speaking country, I was flummoxed to discover that I didn’t understand a word from the Irish. I knew we were speaking the same language … it just didn’t sound like it. It literally sounded like Mandarin to me. Is there a Rosetta Stone Irish course for English speakers?

Humble Hurbis: irish accent

After an eternity of wandering through the cobblestone streets of Dublin, we arrived at our hostel. Note to travelers: booking hostel lodgings is similar to online dating. No matter how nice the fellow is, you don’t know what his family is like until it’s too late. Our hostel was tolerable enough, as far as hostels go. It was our roommate that would prove to be troublesome.

Humble Hubris: hostel

Following a refreshing cleanse of travel grime (courtesy of the bathroom floor, which was a standing lake), we settled into our room and cheerfully made small talk with one of our roommates, a Polish fellow, who unfortunately turned out to be a Potential Roommate #1: The Crazy Gabber.

Small talk  evolved into big talk, as he proceeded to tell us his entire life story. Unlike Irish English, I lamentably understood every word of Polish English, down to each excruciating detail of how he was working in Ireland in order to send money to his impoverished Polish family. A charming story, really; just not after 24 hours of being awake.

Humble Hubris: hostel gabber

Eventually, the now-pressing need for sleep overwhelmed our good manners, and we stopped responding to him. He kept talking. We told him to shut up. He kept talking. In a sleep-deprived delirium, I threw my water bottle at him, hoping the physical force would convey the verbal message he obviously wasn’t understanding.

I don’t feel guilty about that act of violence. He deserved it, and besides, it was filtered water. It was probably good for him.

Humble Hubris: Water Missle

And still, the relentless fiend kept gabbing. Finally, we resorted to ‘playing dead.’ I can sympathize with hunted animals on a whole new level now: the clammy desperation, the dread of blowing your cover, the rustlings of the nearby hunter, the chilling sound of the weapon cocking  (which in this case was a verbal flood that threatened to implode my brains with the ferocity of a bullet).

Humble Hubris: hunted

It worked. His torrent of verbal vomit slowed, when he finally realized we must be dead. No point in wasting a riveting story on corpses!

The next morning, we requested and moved to a private room. After spending the day jaunting about Dublin, we returned to the hostel to find our Polish friend  speaking loudly to the receptionist, and then viciously point at us when we entered. The receptionist asked where we had been that day.

Apparently, 2,000 euros had been stolen from Polish Man’s locker in our former room the night we shared it with him. We appeared highly suspicious, as we requested to move to a different room after the robbery occurred. Thankfully, they realized we were Americans and the Marines would launch an international rescue operation if they so much as fined us, so we got off the hook.

spoiled american

Thoroughly scarred by our hostel experience, we opted for hotels for the rest of our European adventure. They say the best part of traveling is the people you meet and the stories you hear. I generally agree, with the caveat that the bonding occurs in a pub, or on a subway – NOT in your bedroom.

I now travel with a stainless steel water bottle: gabbers, beware!

Excuse Me, Insomnia! I Was Trying to Sleep!

You would think after practicing the art of snooze our whole lives, we’d all be experts at sleeping. Kinda like breathing. Should come naturally, right? Yet here we are, a nation obsessed with zombies, while it is actually we who are the living dead, bleary-eyed and kept semi-cognizant only by Starbucks. I say this in a slight tone of condescension, as I have always been caffeine-free. Superiority over my fellow humans (valiantly resisting the urge here to make a ‘human bean’ joke) is my energy boost.

Slight detour:

coffee history

End detour. Back to not sleeping.

Anxiety seems to have taken the modern circadian rhythm hostage. Having conquered the flimsy foes of ages past – cold, hunger, plague and Mongols – the civilized Western man wrestles with new pestilences of domesticated terror. In a horrifying world of forgotten wi-fi passwords, no time to clean the second garage, and dated wall paper, it’s a miracle any of us snooze at all!

modern anxieties

As with most problems, my nocturnal struggles can be blamed on the Russians. God bless their warm Slavic hearts, but if that nation didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be forced to observe the same napping schedule as a newborn baby.

Years ago, I went on a mission trip to the Motherland with a group from my church. The night before departure, I was so jittery and excited I didn’t sleep a wink. Terror that my flimsy American immune system wouldn’t be able to withstand the rigors of fatigue, traveling, and the ecstasy of being in Dostoevsky’s homeland sauntered over into the next night, when I also didn’t sleep.

flight status

I had worked SO hard at memorizing my two, short Russian phrases that it was unfair I didn’t know the one I really needed communicate: “Where do you keep the sleeping pills, comrade?”

Desperate to sleep, I finally procured a blessed little bottle of drugs with an indecipherable label. For all I know, they could have been old KGB interrogation pills or orangutan tranquilizer, but by the Czar, they worked! Unfortunately, I was unable to smuggle more of the drugs home. All I returned with were a few dried specks of delicious borscht (a pretty purple soup) on my traveling garb. Oh, and a riveting fear of the night. The insomnia bug had impertinently made itself an permanent lodger in my psyche.

russian memories

After that fateful trip, I tried everything: Nyquill, melatonin, prescription sleeping pills (this time with legible labels), meditation, hypnosis, alcohol, exercise, aromatherapy, bribing God, etc.

bribing God2

Nothing would break the cycle of fear that kept me up in the eternal night. Each lonely hour separated me from the rest of humanity, as they selfishly slumbered on restoring brain cells. Then just when I thought I was about to explode from fatigue, the sun would peak over the horizon and as if on cue, I would fall blissfully asleep.

And then my alarm would go off 10 minutes later.

alarm clock

I know it’s not the worst problem in the world, but c’mon. It’s pretty gross.

Reprieve finally sailed in one year later, on the pages of a prosaic economic book. Even my rapturous adoration of all things fiscal withered when I callously bombarded it with determinants of demand, circular flow of goods, and sundry other spicy concepts. Relentlessly, I would read for hours, until at last my senses capitulated and I drifted off to my dreamland of blimp-sized Oreos, ever-ripe donut trees and no dogs. Whoever said money can’t make you happy?? Lots of people, and they are all wrong.


With meticulous zeal, I still have to coddle my bedtime environment. Mentally, I can’t hear any exciting or disturbing news before retiring, still have to read for an hour, and the following day must be devoid of alarm clocks, deadlines, and performances in order for me to fall asleep. Physically, it must be pitch black, completely silent and devoid of other homo sapiens. Even if the other humans are as quiet as silence, I can hear their very EXISTENCE.


We all have little crosses we must bear through life, and perhaps this is one of mine. Well, as my French ancestors would nasally quote through bites of baguette, “C’est la vive!”

Look it up. I’m too tired to translate.