The day after T'giving, I carted my daughters off to Mama's. It was 830 pm. I had packed me pjs, extra undies, toiletries, and a book. I had to be at the sleep study lab by 9.
It was very dark and very windy by the time I made it to the lab. The outer door was locked, but I remembered my instructions to call up and get somebody to buzz me in. Upstairs, the clinic was quiet and deserted. The carpeting swallowed my footsteps, so when the technician opened the clinic door, looking for me and saw me right there, she jumped. She was a cutie: young, light-skinned with very black, shiny hair, regular black woman's shape (though she told me later that she was overweight), round, friendly face, square black glasses.
She took me to my bedroom and told me to put my jammies on. The room was spacious and clean, as was the full bathroom, and the bed was really big. But it still looked hospital-y. I changed into my sleeping clothes and left my stuff bag in the bathroom. I took my book with me, but when I got on the bed, I played around with the remote.
The technician came in and commenced to festoon me with probes? electrodes? sensors? I dunno what they were, but I hated 'em. First, she parted my locks in quarters, and then she scrubbed my scalp hard with alcohol preps in various and sundry places. Then she put some unidentifiable goop in the same places, so the electrodes? probes? sensors? would stay on my head. "This stuff'll melt in hot water," she promised. Then she rolled up my pajama pants and scrubbed my shins with preps right below the knee.
"Did you put lotion on?"
"No." (I had followed directions not to. Nearly killed me not to slather myself with lotion, emollients and unguents when I got out of the shower. I have a terminal fear of ashiness.)
"Well, you sure are shiny! You don't shave your legs, either, do you?" she asked (not because I'm furry, but because I'm so not. It's my theory that women of a certain blackness don't hairy much, for some reason. Light-skinned women tend to be really, really hairy, also for some reason. I remember one of my light-skinned gfs telling me that when she was last pregnant, and hairier than usual, her husband called her "Sasquatch." Good thing they were friends at the time).
She asked me about the book I was reading and endeared herself to me immediately when she told me that her favorite subject in school was literature. In fact, she had taken her undergraduate degree in English. (She is now a psychologist and a professor.) She is the only medical professional I've met who has professed a love for English. Every other doctor, nurse, technician or assistant has said, "I hated English in school!"
After putting electrodes on my shins, she had me draw the lines? cords? through my pant legs and under my pajama shirt through my neckline. Then she put electrodes on my chest at the collarbone. Then she wrapped me tightly around, at my bosom and my waist, with thick, white, velcroed thingies that would, she said, record my breathing and heart rate. She put thingies in my nose to detect snoring. And she put a clamp on my index finger for my pulse. She put thingies all around my chin and one thingy on my face near my right eye.
"I don't think I'll be able to sleep with all this stuff on," I said.
"I've never seen anyone who didn't eventually fall asleep," she replied. She took my blood pressure. It was higher than I'd ever seen it. I hoped it'd go down when I began to relax.
I went to the bathroom for "the last time*" and she hooked me up to the computer (I assume). Then she went out of the room and spoke to me through a speaker above the bed.
"Lie on your back, Ms. B, and flex your feet forward, then back. Good. Now take some deep breaths. Again. Good. Now snore for me, please. Okay, good. Now grind your teeth. That's good. Now blink your eyes ten times. Okay. Good. Thank you. Now, any time you call me tonight, I'll hear you. You don't have to push any buttons or anything. Would you like some water or something?"
"No, thank you."
"Okay. I'll be in at eleven to turn the lights out." I channel-surfed and found the end of a Nick Cage movie, The Family Man. At eleven, the technician came in.
"You find something to watch?"
"Okay. Time for lights out. You want it really dark?"
"Mostly." She turned off the lights and went out, closing the door.
I. could. not. sleep. First of all, the evil technician wanted me to start by sleeping on my back. I had stopped sleeping on my back long ago because I snore and that wakes me up. I told her so.
"That's why I want you to do that," she said. "Most apnea happens while people are on their backs." Well, honey, I snored, but I didn't sleep. That's how it works with me. After a while, though, the technician said I could turn over. Problem was, because of the length (short) of the cords I was attached to, I could turn over only on my right side. I sleep on my left side or my stomach. My stomach was out of the question. So I just lay there, looking into the darkness, not sleeping, yawning occasionally, and wishing I was at home, with the girls and the dogs sleeping in their rooms down the hallway. At one point, I asked the young lady the time, and she said she wasn't supposed to tell me.
I had figured as much. The long night wore on.
Finally, finally, finally, I drifted off, and I dreamed: I was standing at a table with a sheaf of forms before me. I had filled them out. And I was being interrogated about them by somebody over a speaker. I remember answering one question, "I wrote, in three places on this form, my brother! What about that don't you understand?" Then I heard laughter from several people from the speaker. I was winning points somehow. And then I woke up.
The technician said, "It's 5:40 am. Do you want to get up?"
"Yes!" I said, and immediately hoped I hadn't hurt her feelings. I felt so down. I was exhausted and unhappy. As the technician un-electroded me, she told me what else she had been doing all night: grading the "research" papers of her students and getting ticked off. Yes, she's my favorite of all the med-heads I've ever met.
Thank You, Jesus, for sleep.
*The first time, really. I had to get permission to go pee three more times that night. Well, I'm 46. So sue me.