I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead…Or In a Meeting

Well, as long as I’ve been talking about Chapman the past couple weeks, I may as well exhaust my arsenal of Chapman stories with this last one.

Let me start by saying my wife thinks I’m sleep-deprived. Maybe I am, but mostly, I think she’s just jealous that I can fall asleep quickly.

At night, I put in earbuds, set the iPod timer for an hour (overkill, but just in case), and hit Play. The next day, I can tell how fast I fell asleep by how many songs I can remember hearing. Nearly always, I don’t make it through the first song.

I don’t know that I’m any more sleep-deprived than any other hard-working person, though. Most of us work hard, and everyone’s busy. I shoot for a bedtime of 10 or so, but after I say goodnight to everyone at around 9:30, I end up picking up a guitar for awhile, taking my turn on Words With Friends, maybe even reading a bit. So by the time I turn out the light, it’s around 11 or 12.

In the morning, I get up around 6:30. So yeah, maybe I could use a little more sleep. If I don’t set the alarm on Saturday, I wake up at 7 or 7:30.

Geez, this post turned boring fast. Am I putting you to sleep yet? Thanks for hanging in there. I know you don’t care about my sleep schedule, but the point is, I fall asleep fast. And not just at night.

In college, one of my summer jobs was driving a route servicing swimming pools. Once on my way back to the yard, I fell asleep at a traffic light.

Sometimes I have trouble staying awake on my way home from work.

Going back even earlier, I used to fall asleep during Mass when I was 11 or 12. Not that unusual I suppose, but I happened to be an altar boy at the time, and I would fall asleep up there in front of the entire church. My mom used to get so mad at me.

And honestly, I have trouble staying awake in meetings lasting over an hour, even if they’re first thing in the morning. I don’t know, there’s probably something wrong with me.

Not on airplanes, though. Nothing wrong with me there. Just about everyone I talk to is jealous of my ability to sleep on airplanes. In fact, I have to struggle to stay awake while the plane is taxiing. I try to stay awake until the Fasten Seat Belt sign is off, so I can recline my seat so my back doesn’t hurt. If I can make it to that, I’m out for 2-1/2 hours easy. Again, no matter what time of day, no matter how much sleep I’ve already gotten.

So the perceptive among you can already tell where this story is going, but I’ll tell it anyway.

We had an input meeting with the dean of Psychology. The meeting was in July. On a hot day. At about 2 in the afternoon. Flies buzzing lazily around an old, musty-smelling room, as the dean droned lethargically and inexorably on.

My partner and I and our day-to-day client sat down, and the dean began giving me input. He spoke directly to me, since I was the writer.

As the meeting went on, my partner was listening along and taking notes and asking questions, but even when the client answered her questions, he never looked at her. He looked only at me the entire time.

So my partner is nodding along as the dean talks, continuing to take notes, and my partner happens to glance up at me.

I am completely asleep. My eyes are completely closed, but the dean is continuing to talk to me as if nothing is wrong. Panic-stricken, my partner kicks me under the table. But I, being the cool, calm and collected individual that I am, don’t show any visible reaction. I don’t get startled and jerk awake. Instead, I don’t move a muscle, but I slowly open my eyes. My expression doesn’t change at all, but I open my eyes and look at him as if I’d been listening all along. I begin taking notes again and asking questions.

I really don’t know how I did that, but I did. My partner felt the need to say something, of course. She said, “Oh, he just became a new daddy and isn’t getting much sleep lately.” It was true, my daughter had just been born a week or two earlier. I don’t think that was why I fell asleep, but it made for a timely excuse.

Our day-to-day client thought it was pretty funny. He hadn’t seen me asleep, but he figured it out when my partner apologized.

The following week, we had another meeting with a different department. Our day-to-day client had to leave early and excused himself halfway through. I said, “Hold on, I’m going to walk you out. I need to talk to you about something.” So I excused myself and walked out with him.

When we got out into the hallway, he said, “What did you want to ask me about?”

I said, “Oh, nothing. I was just falling asleep and needed to walk around or something.” He laughed and walked off.

One of my favorite musicians is the late, great Warren Zevon. If you’ve never heard anything of his other than “Werewolves of London”, you owe it to yourself to check out his first album. Okay, it’s not technically his first, but his very first one was this horrific out-of-print thing that doesn’t count. Anyway, whenever my wife tells me to go to bed early or sleep in later or (heaven forbid!) take a nap, I quote my favorite line of his: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Hey, I have things to do, y’know?

It’s probably a good thing that operating heavy machinery for a living isn’t one of them.

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