Among the many glories of middle age is the perfection of the act of snoring. While some of us may snore just a bit, others of us come into our own as truly magnificent snoring machines. We become legendary. Which is not to say that we are universally admired.
Quite the contrary. As is often the case with great artists, we are eventually tagged as nuisances. We are persecuted and made into refugees, driven from master bedroom to sofa and perhaps eventually to permanent settlement in the guest room. No number of long-stemmed roses, graceful verses, or heartfelt pleading will gain us re-entry into the boudoir of love. Indeed, we might as well hang the marriage tackle on the wall and go fishing. We are given but one option: Get fixed.
To submit or not to submit — that is the question.
Not to brag but there is a point of pride involved here. My snore, I have been told many times, has a supernatural quality about it. Some listeners are astounded that the noise comes from a human. It is said to be very, very loud and sometimes takes on a high, shrill, otherworldly sound, like a cosmic being having his wings ripped from his back. My wife has commented on this many times.
Likewise, while camping at music festivals I am sometimes visited by people who have marveled at The Snore throughout the night. They are astounded. Some point out that their campsites are a city block away. Some ask me to go home. Some insist on it.
All of which was acceptable until recently when the aforementioned wife, who long ago sent me packing to the guest room, noted that the only time I don’t seem to snore is when I seem to stop breathing. After several nights of listening through the wall, she became convinced that my breathing apparatus shut down with some regularity. These work stoppages were not particularly long-lived but tended to end with a massive snort. Sometimes the snort is so powerful she feared my molars might be sucked down my throat.
And so off to the doctor, who ordered a sleep study. A helpful and attractive young Chinese-American girl wired me up, pasting sensors all about my head, chest, legs, and under my nose. These were hooked to a junction box which was wired to a computer, which in turn would record the number of “incidents” that might be medically significant — that is, that might reveal the dreaded Sleep Apnea, which can increase one’s chances of a heart attack or, much worse, a debilitating stroke.
My attendant bid me goodnight, shut the sleeping chamber door, and soon I dozed off in the utter blackness. The next thing I knew she shook me awake and fitted me with a thick plastic mask that covered my nose. The mask was hooked to a pump that forced air deep into my lungs. When the mouth was opened air rushed out, as if from a slit tire. This took some getting used to, though when I was eventually awakened at 5:30 a sense of deep rest awaited. Being rested, to be sure, was a very odd sensation.
A week lapsed between study and results. Many thoughts filled the mind. If Sleep Apnea were discovered, would that not make one a member of the disabled community? If so, might that provide certain benefits, such as access to choice parking spaces and perhaps a relief check of some sort sent once a month — a bit of mailbox money to cheer up the victim? In addition, perhaps a humble volume could be written on the subject, augmented by a modest speaking tour, including an appearance with Rosie, who no doubt snores like a rhino. One must never miss an opportunity to convert adversity into currency.
Then came the call. Yes, the affliction is present. In the first hour, the patient woke up 29 times gasping for air. Doing a bit of math, it was conjectured that the patient may wake up a couple of hundred times a night. A bit more math resulted in a truly startling conclusion: I may not have slept more than two or three minutes straight for the past six or seven years. No wonder I’m such a crank. I’ve been dead on my feet since 1995.
Various cures are possible, including a trip to the surgeon, and there is no shortage of testimonies as to how one’s life is made anew by these simple procedures. Yet there is something else to consider. Sleep deprivation has its benefits. In our state of perpetual crankiness we easily beat the dog to the growl, the snake to the bite, and most everyone else to the punch. A well-worn weariness also suggests advanced wisdom and philosophical perfection; the biggest fools and nuisances on earth, as most of us cranks know, are the bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Countless crimes against humanity and taste are performed after a good night’s sleep.
And so, to submit or not to submit — that truly is the question. The cure offers rest and may help avoid a stroke or indeed instant death, but it might also turn me into a chipper bastard.
Better sleep on this one awhile.