I’m only sleeping

Please, don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me
Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping.

The Beatles – I’m Only Sleeping

I’ve been feeling quite fatigued the past few months, to the point where I have an almost irresistable urge to have a nap, every single afternoon. I don’t know if I somehow fell into the European way of living after the cruise, or if I’m just getting accustomed to being an old fart.

Either way, it’s been prevalent enough that I mentioned it to my doctor, who promptly suggested a sleep study. I’ve participated in a sleep study before, but it was at least a decade ago, so I’d forgotten most of it…well, aside from the go in and sleep part.

Last night, I did the sleep study again.

The first hurdle to cross was, I had to pass at least three Tim Horton’s along the way to the sleep clinic and it seemed each one called my name just a little bit louder. I wouldn’t be lying when I told you I had the “You’ve always got time for Tim Horton’s” jingle bouncing around in my head all the way there.

I parked and headed in. There was a creepy old guy there ahead of me. How creepy? You know in those movies that take place in Transylvania or some place like that, and the hero always encounters an old woman who’s creepy and has a bad eye? The old woman from the movie Drag Me To Hell fits the bill nicely.

Not necessarily someone you wanna sleep with

Not necessarily someone you wanna sleep with

Yeah, well, that was this creepy old guy, right down to the bad eye. I’m not even kidding.

When I came in, there was a TV on up in the corner, but he just sat, staring off in a different direction. Sort of toward me, but not quite. I said hi to him. He said nothing back.

Then a couple more guys showed up, not creepy, but also a solid decade or two older. So, even though I was the youngest guy there, scenarios went through my head. Creepy old guy takes over other old guys’ minds then come after the younger dude to…

I don’t even want to think about it.

The only advantage I figured I had was, he was heavier and they put him on the first floor and I was up on the second. I would have heard him tromping up the stairs.

Anyway, we hung out in the waiting room watching possibly one of the stupidest excuses for reality television show. House Hunters International. Seriously, who the hell wants to watch people go through three or four houses and pick one? Just don’t get it.

I was so happy when the staff dude came along to collect us. Then as we walked up the stairs, I saw the Tim Horton’s cup of coffee in his hand. “You’re teasing me, aren’t you?” I said. He just laughed.

Because I was the first one going to bed, I was the first to get wired up.

Now, for those of you who have never done a sleep study, there’s no way to adequately describe exactly how much they wire you up for one of these things. So, instead, I took some pics:

The full frontal

The full frontal

The overhead shot

The under-the-chin shot (or the up-the-nostrils shot)

The right side

The right side

The wrong side

The wrong side

I'm electric!

I’m electric!

To get those wires to stick to my scalp, they have to use substantial amounts of goopty-goo that’s actually conductive gel. He took one look at my stubbled face and slathered it all over my chin too. The he stuck the leads in, then glued it all down with generous helpings of tape.

I also got the tubes in the nose so they’d know if I stopped breathing. Got a couple of leads near my eyes so they could measure R.E.M. (rapid eye movement, not the band from Athens, Georgia) and more to see if I ground my teeth and more to watch for swallowing.

Are you Sarah Connor? Do you have my teddy bear?

Are you Sarah Connor? Do you have my teddy bear?

After about a half hour of getting wired up worse than the Terminator, I got to head off and read for a while. When I was ready for bed, I just needed to let him know and that would start Round Two of the wiring procedure.

After reading for about a half hour, he was just about wiring up Guy Number Two. I let him know I was ready to be tucked in, and he said, “Okay, I’ll be there in a minute. Do you want to use the washroom one more time?” Then, he added a strong, “Please.” Not, “please?” but “please.”

He didn’t want me having to get up in the middle of the night, needing a late-night tinkle when I was wired up like a Christmas tree.

Finally, I was ready. He pulled back the covers, I laid down, then he jacked in the various leads to a couple of boxes beside the bed. then he taped a small piece to the end of my left index finger that glowed red. It would let him know how oxygenated I was. I thought it made me look like E.T.

etHe said he just needed to test a couple more things, and I would hear him over the speaker. He left the room, and I heard him heading downstairs. Then, after checking to see if I could hear him on the speaker, he had me lay with my eyes open, then with them closed, then looking up, then down, then up then down. Switch to looking left to right, back to left, back to right. Then breathe deeply, in and out. Then hold my breath for ten seconds. Then breathe normally. Then, not breathe, but move my stomach in and out (which took me a second or two to actually get working). Finally, I was to move my feet, first pointing my toes downward, then up, down then up.

Apparently all was well. Then it was time to sleep. Even with all these leads, I was still surprisingly mobile, and could sleep on either side. I sometimes sleep on my stomach as well, but that just wasn’t comfortable for me.

I have to say, on an average night at home, I can drop off pretty quickly. The Wife gets pissed at times, because it typically goes something like:

Me: “‘Night, honey.”

The Wife: “Night, babe.”

Me: “Love you.”

The Wife: “Love you too.”

Me: Snores.

But not last night. I started on my back and it wasn’t bad, but I usually fall asleep on my side. So I moved to my left side. That stupid tube going from nose to ear to throat was making itself known by digging into my cheek a bit. Then, of course, along come the thoughts. What if I can’t fall asleep? What if I’m up all night?

Then the dude in the room next to me started snoring. Not loud, but enough to hear it. I felt the frustration the Wife likely feels when I drop off in seconds. Bastard. I was still wide awake. Tired, but wide awake.

So, back to my back. Though it feels like I didn’t fall asleep there, I very likely did. Then I woke up again. Over to the right side. Tubes digging. Not comfortable. More discouraging thoughts. I should have read more, made myself really tired.

Back to the back.

And so on, through much of the night.

I knew wake up was around six in the morning, but being in a room with no windows, I had no idea what time it was. I had decided before going to bed that I would not use the desk clock feature on my phone, because I didn’t really want to know what time it was if I couldn’t sleep, and I’m glad I did.

But it’s interesting, because, of course, the dude watching the monitors knows exactly when I’m awake. So, when I woke up and rolled over, I heard him on the small speaker. “Good morning! Right on time. It’s 5:58. Just relax and I’ll be in soon.”

Yup, that’s me. It doesn’t matter what time I need to get up, I usually wake up a minute or two prior to the alarm going off. Good to see it still worked here as well.

He came in, unjacked me and we headed back into the room where he dewired me and handed me a small towel and facecloth to scrub some of that goopty-goo off. I went into the bathroom and, looking in the mirror, realized exactly how inadequate one little facecloth was going to be for the task.

I scrubbed it off my chin and anywhere else it was visible, then ran my hands under the water and finger-brushed my hair back. It was only 7:00 am and it was a ten-minute drive home. I had planned on grabbing a coffee on the way, but nope, it was straight home and right into the shower.

On the way out, I got an appointment card for about a month from now, when I’ll get my results. I already know what they’ll be. “You sleep fine, and if you want to get rid of that snore, lose forty pounds.”

Mark my words. In the meantime, I wait.

And now, here I sit, tired as hell. Though I can honestly say that I got wired on a Saturday night, and had to sleep it off.

Time for a nap.

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Cruising to fifty, part two: Frodo and the immovable bus

This is the second part of a series of blogs about the cruise the Wife and I went on last October.You can read part one here.

A quick set up:

I turned 50 on October 6, 2012. My wife surprised me about three weeks before, during a particular low spot in my life with a piece of paper. “Happy birthday,” she said. I opened the paper and quickly scanned it.

“We’re going on a cruise?” I said, and my mind kind of shut down with happiness after that. In fact, it wasn’t until several minutes later, as I was refolding the paper, that I saw the word “Greece” and just about shit. This is the story of what happened on that trip, taken almost exclusively from the diary I kept along the way.

Have mercy
Been waitin’ on the bus all day

ZZ Top

October 6 – My birthday!

I turned fifty over the Atlantic, but didn’t notice it until a couple of hours later. Could be I was tired. Could be I was old. Either way, I’d crossed that threshold.

The flight landed twenty minutes early and for the first time, I stepped on European land. Not that I had time to think about it. I think we’re spoiled in Canada and the U.S. when we walk off the plane and straight into the terminal. In Venice, we walked down a flight of stairs, stood on the tarmac and a crazed transport driver came by and did his best to make us puke, or at least drop us all to our knees on the ten minute drive from plane to terminal. Sharp turns with no warning, rapid acceleration and rapid stops were the order of the day.

We managed to hold down our nasty airline food and, once in the airport, desperately look for a washroom. I was quite happy I was male at this time, as I was able to simply walk in, find a free urinal, and do what I needed to do, which was to pee in my first European urinal. You’re a peein’ indeed! My wife, on the other hand, lined up for a solid twenty minutes. We both survived, then got our baggage, then we assembled to wait for our transport to the ship. If I’d known exactly how exasperating it was going to be, I would have hired a taxi. Ah well, hindsight’s 20/20, right?

So the first endurance test was to wait within the terminal. We had to wait until all the Transat travelers arrived. No biggie. The plan was to hop on the bus and get delivered to our various floating holiday accomodations, the Divina, the Jade, and ours, the Splendour of the Seas.

It wasn’t a horrible wait. We’d landed by noon local time, got our luggage by 12:30, and by 1:00, a short, balding, slightly anxious, hobbit-like driver walked us from the terminal to the bus with his hand raised to shoulder height–this from a guy barely scraping 5’3″–as though that hand could be followed through all of Middle Earth to the depths of Mordor.

Ten-ish minutes later, we were at the bus and we separated our luggage out depending on which ship we were headed to. A second group showed up, all headed for the Divina. We were all told to wait outside the bus. It was about ridiculously hot outside, but one of the other passengers described the bus as being “about 900 degrees” so we figured outside was better. Twenty minutes later, our hobbit driver started up the bus and the air conditioning and loaded us on. We were left with the impression we would leave shortly and, after eight hours in a cramped seat on the plane, here we were again, stuffed into a seat with no legroom. Meanwhile, Frodo was out chatting up another bus driver and sweating profusely.

Soon, a couple more groups showed up, stowed their luggage and got on the bus. It’s probably important to note at this point that this bus could likely seat about 70 people. I mention this because that first group I mentioned? The ones going to the Divina? There were eight of them, four couples. They obviously felt a deep, abiding love for each other and very much looked forward to spending a week with each other at sea, because when they got on the bus, they each claimed a section of two seats for themselves. Yes…sixteen seats for eight people. Four couples. Or, should I say, eight ignorant assholes. The other groups that got on the bus kind of gave them all the stink eye, then moved toward the back of the bus.

Anyway, it’s now about 1:45, almost two hours since we’ve landed, when Frodo finally climbs aboard and puts it into gear. Yay! I think, prematurely. We drive out of the parking lot, down a short laneway and get out to what looks like a main thoroughfare–a total distance of maybe a quarter-mile. Frodo then says, “Sorry!” and some other stuff in Italian that we couldn’t catch, then pulled a U-turn and we headed right back to the dreaded parking lot. He parked us in the exact same spot and leapt from the bus and ran back to the terminal.

Several minutes later, sweating worse now, he showed back up with more people and luggage.  He’d stow their luggage, direct them on the bus, grab a little fanny pack from the driver’s cockpit, say something about dropping off tickets, then scoot back to the terminal. Ten minutes later, he’d show up again.

With more travelers and luggage. Which would start the whole cycle all over again. Stow, direct, fanny pack, tickets, scoot, ten minutes.

Every time he came back, there was a feeling of anticipation, of woo-hoo, we’re on our way! Each time we saw more travelers, that feeling would deflate again. This went on for five full trips to and from the terminal for Frodo. By now, it was just getting old.

A solid hour after he’d left the parking lot, then returned, somewhere around 3:00, we’ve now been in Venice a total of three hours and seen nothing but an airport, a parking lot, a bus and a tantalizing glimpse of what lay beyond. We finally left the parking lot again, the bus packed to the gills and the ignorant assholes finally having to give up their individual sections and sit with each other.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 064

Our first real glimpse of Venice from the bus.

On the way into Venice

On the way into Venice

Our first glimpse of our ship

Our first glimpse of our ship

Fifteen minutes later, we were at our boat. We’d waited almost two and a half hours for a fifteen minute trip. Goddamn.

Anyway, the Royal Caribbean staff were all young, attractive and friendly and we were welcomed with big smiles. From their welcome, we then walked down a long, covered gangway and then…then we were on our ship. And it was beautiful.

The ship from the gangway

We found our way to our room and it actually had a birthday greeting right on the door. Karen let me open the door and I found the room decorated with birthday s

tuff. Holy crap! In all the fuss with Frodo, I’d forgotten it was still actually my birthday.

By now, it was about 3:30 local time, or about 9:30 am by what my internal clock was telling me. We’d been up for about 28 straight hours. We were tired and hungry.

We headed down to the solarium–a beautiful area, by the way–and had an excellent carved roast beef sandwich and it was nice to just sit in a comfortable chair with legroom  and look out at Venice sprawled in front of us.

Venice

At 4:30 (29 hours and counting), everyone had to attend muster–gathering beneath our designated lifeboat (ours was #10) and were taught, in English, Italian, German and Spanish, how to put on a lifejacket. It was interestingly refreshing to not get the instructions in French, as we would have in Canada.

We took a couple of pictures then went back to the cabin for a nap. Okay, I went back for a nap.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 083

I’d just laid down when Karen dragged me back out–twice–to look at interesting things. The launch of the ship out of port and Venice sliding by.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 085

I should say, it’s always been a dream of mine to go to Venice. And here it was. I wanted to enjoy it. I truly did. But 30 hours awake and 4500 miles of travel by plane, bus and ship had done their work. I fell on the bed and died.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 086

I woke up at 6:30. Karen had been too excited to sleep, so she’d taken pictures and unpacked. I’d slept through it all.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 090

It was time for dinner, so I clambered into the teeny, tiny shower and scrubbed off the exhaustion of the past day and a half, got dressed and we headed down for dinner. I had an excellent dinner of pork medallions, mashed potatoes and mushrooms in a ragout sauce with a Caesar salad. Dessert was Strawberry Povlova…which was crazy good.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 099

We took a brief walk around the ship, then came back to the cabin and we both fell down in exhaustion.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 114

And that’s how I turned fifty years old. A little rough in spots, but overall, it turned out fantastic. Story of my life!

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 124-2Tomorrow was going to be a better day.

See part three here.