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IMHO: Sleep, glorious sleep

By Ron Scopelliti

After a night of too much pizza and too much wine that finished with coffee, loud background music, and a dubious-looking chocolate chip cookie at AS220, I found myself unable to sleep at about 2 a.m. That shouldn’t have bothered me, since I didn’t have anything to do until noon the following day. But I’ve been feeling this need to maintain a respectable sleep schedule, which in this case would have to wait for another day.

I’m not as good with sleep deprivation as I used to be. There was a period where my daily dose of sleep was about five hours, and while this wasn’t intentional, I seemed to function okay with it.

These days, if I try that I end up with a desperate need to take an afternoon nap. Seriously desperate. The sort of desperation that leads to manslaughter charges, and creative legal defenses.

It’s hard for me to stay on a respectable sleep schedule, because ever since I was a kid I had this terrible feeling that if I went to sleep I’d miss something. It started when I was five or six, and insisted on staying up until 9 p.m. so I could see the end of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”. Later, I remember being 13 or 14 and struggling to stay awake until 1 a.m. to catch an “Avengers” episode I hadn’t seen, or to watch Kansas performing on “The Midnight Special.”

Maybe I never recovered from this. Television is still an integral part of my sleep habits. I’ll often use it to distract myself from stray thoughts that keep me from getting to sleep.

But there are only certain shows I can fall asleep to. “Forensic Files” and “Mysteries at the Museum” are good ones. They’re shows that won’t annoy me too much to fall asleep, but they have a certain monotony to their delivery that helps me drift off to sleep as my interest in a grisly murder or J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite dress begins to wane.

However, just as I’m drifting off, Cox Cable usually blasts me awake with their obnoxious “Food, Glorious Food” commercial. I can’t tell if this commercial is 5 percent louder than others, or if it’s just the ever-grating nature of the song that not only wakes me up, but keeps me up for hours with a smoldering and unrelenting hatred of Broadway and the West End for bringing it into existence. Did I mention that I get kinda irritable when I’m tired?

For a while, I tried to embrace my insomnia. Mammals are naturally suited to nocturnal pursuits because we can regulate our body temperatures without the help of the sun – that’s what gave us our niche to hunt while the cold-blooded reptiles were asleep. Who am I to go against our mammalian tradition by going to bed early? I thought I should use this extra time to be productive.

But I have trouble with abstract thinking when I have insomnia, so I can’t be particularly productive. I have to choose relatively simple and mindless tasks like washing dishes or doing laundry, and there’s only so much of that available to a single guy.

During a brief period living in Mattapoisett, I was pretty close to a 24-hour Stop and Shop, so I liked to go grocery shopping after midnight. It was a very peaceful experience. I’d put on the first Modern Lovers CD and drive to the Stop and Shop over a traffic-free Route 6, then wander the aisles free from the shopping-cart-traffic-jams of the day. I’d get home, and by the time I finished putting my groceries away, I’d find I was ready to fall asleep.

While there’s now a 24-hour Wal-Mart within easy driving range of Smithfield, I’ve never found the same sort of peace in a Wal-Mart. Even at 1 a.m., there’s always some sort of residual Wal-Mart energy that makes it seem crowded when it’s empty. Not sleep-inducing at all. But I may have found an alternative.

The last week of January, when I was having sporadic bouts of insomnia, I got a call around 7 p.m. It was the “Windows service center” scam, where a “technician” with a heavy subcontinental accent tries to talk you into giving him remote access to your computer. When I have time to kill, I like to string these guys along and waste their time as much as possible. I’ll ask them how they know that I actually own a PC and not a Mac, or how I can change the port forwarding setting on my router. Oddly, they never seem to know the answer.

This time, I decided to ask the guy for their phone number, so I could turn the tables and make annoying random calls when it was convenient to me. I figured I’d try to sell them a subscription to “The Watchtower,” or offer to split a fortune from a bank in Nigeria, all if they’d just give me their bank account info. Surprisingly, he actually gave me a number to call back. This, I thought, would be my new late-night activity.

But a few hours later I started thinking. If I escalate the situation by calling them, they might respond by calling me more often, and harassing me more vigorously. I could find a phone booth to call from, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen one, and it could get seriously expensive if I got to harass these people for as long as I wanted to.

And as I thought about it, a strange sensation came over me. I was getting sleepy. Before I knew it I was out like a light.

So forget warm milk and counting sheep. My new sleep aid is planning my revenge on those who annoy me. Now how can I get back at the late Lionel Bart for writing “Food, Glorious Food”…