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Wednesday, December 21, 2011  

Like Clockwork

Anyone whose ever done any research into sleep disorders knows about the importance of a regular routine when it comes to getting to sleep reliably. I'm here to tell you it's true, but not necessarily in exactly the way you think.

Most weekdays at some time between 3:20 and 3:30 PM, I save whatever I'm working on, get in my car, and drive the three miles to M. Edium's school. I pull into a spot in the pickup line; turn off the ignition, the heat, and the radio; and tilt my seat back as far as it will go. The next thing I know, the daily alarm I have programmed on my cell phone is going off seconds before the school bell does, and I hop out to wait by the exit, alert and refreshed, until M. Edium comes out one to two minutes later. It's the high point of my afternoon.

There are some days when the routine doesn't work out quite so well. Sometimes a tight deadline might keep me at my desk as late as 3:32 or 3:34. That same pressure might make it difficult for me to relax and shut down my mind when I get to the school. I might almost get pulled over or hit by another car. On more stressful days like this, the process of falling asleep in my car can take as long as thirty seconds.

I was worried about the disruption in routine when I got my new car in October, and indeed that first day didn't go too well. I found myself lightly dozing instead of enjoying a proper ten-minute coma. But then by the next day I'd figured out how to lower the headrest, and once again I was able to deactivate myself like C-3PO.

In fact, my internal clock has come to count on it. On that last residential street, I'm already yawning in anticipation, and if I get stuck behind anyone slow, I ride their bumper, lean on the horn, scream obscenities, and give them a punitive little tap as I pass them, just so I can get my beauty sleep that much sooner.

Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious, sitting in that line of cars with the other parents with my closed eyes and open mouth pointed up at the dome light. Maybe some of them have noticed my pattern and have possibly even come up with their own little nicknames for me, like "Napping Dad" or "Pick-up Van Winkle" or "That Asshole." But since many of them sit there with their engines running for no reason the entire time, they're in no position to judge. Ten, fifteen minutes of post-peak oil going into the ozone layer. Do you know how long it's more efficient to leave your engine on than to turn it off and back on? Six seconds. Which, to be fair, it longer than it takes me to fall asleep, but it's a lot less than ten or fifteen minutes.

In fact, there's only one downside that I can see right now. Today was M. Edium's last day of school until the first of the year. He'll be home with us every day for the next week and a half, so there will be no need for me to go pick him up. I just hope he and Trash will have a little patience for the narcoleptic fits that are almost certain to hit me between 3:30 and 4:00 for the rest of the year. I might ask them to let me spread pillows and cushions around on the floor just in case I black out while walking from room to room, but I have a feeling that I'll be invited to crash out in my car. As usual. Which I'm actually okay with. And if that doesn't work, well…nobody cares if a guy's parked alone in a car outside a school when there's no class in session, right?

posted by M. Giant 8:37 PM 1 comments


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