SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
A while back I was tested for allergies. It’s something that needles me still, in each arm, once a week. During the follow-up meeting, the ear, nose, and throat doctor informed me that my ears were clogged, my nose stuffed, and my throat raw. He also asked how I’d been sleeping.
“How should I know?” I asked him. “I was asleep.”
“He doesn’t sleep very well,” my wife put in. “He’s terrible at it. No talent for sleeping at all. However, he snores in the cutest little accents.”
So the doc ordered a sleep study. Thanks, dear.
In her defense, apparently the old trick of rolling me over to stop the snoring no longer worked. Stuffing a pillow down my throat also had its drawbacks. To make matters worse, the ENT had discovered I have something called a deviated septum.
Many of us have that moment when we realize we’re not the heroes of our own stories, but rather the sidekicks, or some other supporting roll. I’m that nerd kid everyone bullied and made fun of, with the glasses, allergies, and yes, deviated septum. I’m one inhaler away from being the star of a Revenge of the Nerds remake.
The doc explained that a device would be placed over my head, and I’d have to keep it on while I slept. Also, that device was worth five thousand dollars, so be careful with it.
“Thanks, doc. I’ll sleep well, with enough electronics on me to pay off my car.”
“If it helps,” he suggested, “your wife can stuff a pillow down your throat until you start snoring.”
The device was both lighter and smaller than previous designs, if you can call having a Volkswagen strapped to your face smaller. At least it wasn’t a ’57 Chevy.
The strap adjusted to me like a baseball cap, and there were two adhesive suction cups that stuck it to my forehead. The testing package on the front was roughly the same size and shape as one of those huge knots the Coyote gets on his head after his Acme anvil malfunctions and hits him, instead of the Road Runner. That’s entertainment.
Then a nasal cannula went on – that’s two little plastic tubes that stick into your nose. Then, when ready for bed, I had to turn it on and wait for it to do some little computer testing stuff. Finally a female voice spoke (not my wife). The electronic voice was probably meant to be soothing, but it sounded more like a nun wielding a yardstick in a Catholic school, announcing the spankings were about to commence:
“You may go to sleep NOW.”
Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that. Nothing says sleep like a 5K computer that could start the robot apocalypse, strapped to your forehead.
Miraculously, I did indeed get to sleep. Eventually. And that’s when I learned something new: My forehead sweats when I sleep. When that happens, adhesives glued to my forehead may come loose. (How was I to know that? I don’t glue stuff to my forehead. Okay, once.) When that happens, the whole sleep testing computer thingy may come loose.
And when that happens, the computer knows.
It’s safe to say I was sleeping soundly by then. Or maybe not – again, how do I know? But certainly it was quiet in the room, because the device actually records all sounds while it’s operating, so I had to turn the room’s fan off. So, to review, in addition to a pumpkin on my forehead the room was perfectly quiet and my subconscious knew that the computer was listening to me.
And yet I slept. That is, up until the moment that it decided the device had to be moved back to where it was supposed to be, instead of the top of my head.
“THE DEVICE IS LOOSE. REPOSITION NOW. THE DEVICE IS LOOSE. REPOSITION NOW. THE DEVICE IS –“
I was halfway out the second story bedroom window before becoming fully conscious. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought the place was on fire. There was a dent in the ceiling, so apparently I didn’t touch the floor on my way out.
Emily slept through the whole thing, including me yelling “Open the pod bay doors, HAL!” which she would have appreciated because she saw that movie.
After getting off the windowsill and wandering in little circles for a few minutes, I decided I’d better fix the thing, since they were billing me five hundred bucks regardless. I repositioned it until the lady Terminator stopped screaming in my ear, then did what men my age often do in the middle of the night: headed downstairs for a, shall we say, rest stop.
You can only imagine the look on the face of our dog, who heard some strange woman yelling and now saw me stumbling past him with Alien stuck to my face.
But before I went, I realized the computer lady was listening to every move I made, and would actual hear me – ahem – tinkle. I never thought of myself as having a shy bladder, but that shut down my entire urinary system. I didn’t go again for three days.
Obviously I survived the incident, although how many days it took off my life I’ll never know. Maybe I’d have slept through them, anyway. At this writing I’m awaiting the results, which I suspect will indicate I need to carry a pocket protector with me at all times. But that’s okay: When the robot apocalypse starts, nerds might have the best chance of surviving.
And every time to sleep study computer nun gathers more information, that apocalypse gets a little closer.