Labor of Love

imageI started writing this post in my daughter’s apartment while watching a pair of male cats and the NCAA Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Faith was away, and those boys needed to be fed – they always need to be fed. Those two knuckleheads have the “oh-my-God-I-am-starrr-ving” look down to a T. I entered the apartment to a chorus of “please plee eeease, feeeeeed us. We haven’t eaten in daaaaaazz.

The boys are Moncton and Preston. Moncton is a handsome black and white tuxedo cat in the great tradition of tuxedo cats in our family that dates back to Oreo.

Oreo was an emaciated black and white kitten that wandered into my cabinet shop a day before we closed the doors forever. I picked him up, looked him in the eyes and said “the last thing I need right now is another mouth to feed.” Still, he wouldn’t give up. He cried and cried “I want to be your kitty.” I called home. My wife said “we can’t afford a cat” and she reminded me that she was allergic to cats. Yeah yeah, I took him home.

All the way home, he rode on my shoulders, bumping my head with his. When we got home, my wife opened the door and Oreo leaped from my hands into her arms. When I reached to pet him, he slashed out at me with his claws, as if to say: “you found my mom; you can go now.” Cats are like that.

We have had black and white tuxedo cats ever since.

The other boy, Preston, is a ball of beige fluff. Preston is the color of everytimagehing. He blends in with the carpet, the couch, the walls and, as you can see, the sides of a box. Preston is also crazy. Faith shared photos of him when he cornered a live mouse behind a piece of cardboard but got distracted by a stuffed toy mouse. The real mouse escaped.

As for the football game, I wasn’t thrilled to see this game on WVU’s schedule. I’m not sure who thought a team that has struggled to beat Marshall for 3 years in their opening game could beat the Crimson Tide. WVU (that’s West Virginia University, a.k.a. my undergraduate alma mater) was 4-8 last year.

Alabama, on the other hand won 11 consecutive football games to start their 2013 season. Their march to the SEC (Southeastern Conference) championship playoff game was terminated in bizarre fashion when Auburn, Alabama’s in-state arch rival, ran back a missed field goal attempt for a touchdown in the final seconds of a game known as The Iron Bowl.

I’m no fan of Alabama. I spent one year at the University of Georgia, and one year in the SEC was enough to form a healthy dislike of the Crimson Tide. I’m no fan of Auburn either, but when that kid was runing the missed field goal back for a touchdown, I was screaming “War Eagle” almost as loud as my friend Laurence Hart.

Cats go well with football. First off, despite all their imageclamoring, they can wait until halftime to eat. More importantly, they do not interrupt the game. Other than blocking the signal from the remote, the worst thing they do is to land on your lap and demand attention. After almost 30 years of being owned by cats, I can scratch a kitty while watching TV. In addition to Tuxedo cats, we have had 4 Irish Setters in the past 30-some years. Mitzi, Rielly and Mollie accompanied us to 2013 when Maddie arrived. Dogs have no respect for football. Dogs are all:

I need to go out. I don’t care if the two-minute warning just sounded, I. Am. Going. To. Poop. On. The. Floor. If you don’t take me out now!

The boys and I ate early during the game. Faith left me with many cans of the boys’ favorite food. My food, on the other hand, met with some resistance. I had picked up a pizza on my way over on Saturday, planning to eat half and reheat half on Sunday.

Guys can eat the same thing two days in a row. Guys can eat the same food forever. Make me a meatloaf and I will eat meatloaf and meatloaf sandwiches until the meatloaf is gone.

Anyway, my wife was concerned because when Faith was born, also on a Saturday, I left the hospital for home pretty late. When I arrived, I popped a few slices of leftover pizza in the oven. Then I called my brother to tell him our good news. We talked. It got late. I went to bed. Monday afternoon, when I brought mother and baby home, the first thing my wife said was: “what’s burning?” The oven had been cranking at 450° for about 45 hours. The pizza had a Biblical ending, as in: “…and to dust you shall return” but no real harm was done. OK, our electric bill may have spiked a bit.

I will never live that incident down.

Alabama beat WVU 33-23, nowhere near covering the 21 ½ point spread given by the odds makers. That’s a respectable showing for my team. If WVU can hang tough with the Crimson Tide, maybe they can finish 2014 with a winning season. Happy Labor Day, and thanks for reading.

Posted in Family, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

I love Catalogs

CatalogsThere, I said it. I know that you’ve already computed my age as being somewhere between ‘old’ and ‘ancient’ and you’re already bracing yourself for a trip down memory lane. I’m ok with my age, and this isn’t a post about how things were better back in the day. Also, you should also know that I have spent 35+ years in a career working with technology, so I am familiar with things like computers, iPads and the Internet.

One of the benefits of that career, or perhaps it’s a work-related injury of sorts is that I understand the details of technology. I understand the differences between analog and digital forms, and I know think know where digital still pales by comparison. First, let’s give digital its due.

Digital shopping works, but I would add that digital buying works much better than digital shopping. Digital buying works better than analog buying in some cases:

A few weeks ago, I was in a department store shopping for casual pants. Of all the colors and styles available, only the standard khaki-colored variety was available in the size (38×34) and style (flat front, no cuff, cuz who wants cuffs on casual pants?) A saleswoman asked if I found everything I was looking for and I explained that I had not. She said: “I can order anything you want on-line and have it shipped to you for the in-store price.

You would think that sending a truckload of pants to the store would be cheaper than sending one pair of pants to me, but I guess not. I also guess that it won’t be long before the department store closes.

Digital shopping has everything in stock. Digital shopping can save me a trip to the mall. But, digital shopping can’t let me try those pants on; you know to see if the 38 in the 38×34 is still a good number or if the 34 puts those cuff-less legs dangerously high above my shoes. Yes, I know that technology exists/is right around the corner where I can upload a picture of me and my measurements and spin myself around in those new pants. However, I won’t be able to feel the tug on my waist. Actually, my wife points out that I’m no longer wearing my pants at my waist or that my waist is no longer where it’s supposed to be, so the measurements I upload won’t be helpful to the algorithm-driven mannequin. Anyway, I’m off track. That’s in-person shopping, I was talking about catalogs.

I love catalogs because, like real books, they encourage my imagination. Digital screens require too much of my attention to let me imagine anything. I’m fighting pop-ups, paging forward and back, taking screen-shots or making a list in Evernote to keep track of the things I like. I’d rather lie on the couch, browsing from page-to-page thinking about what might be. Imagining what I could do with a tool, how a piece of furniture would feel or discovering that something heretofore unknown to me really does exist.

Heretofore not used before

I checked, that is the first time I’ve used the word “heretofore” in a blog post.

Fortunately, the people selling the stuff I most want to browse in a catalog are still sending me catalogs. Those would be tool suppliers and to be honest, they are sending those catalogs to my wife. She’s been buying me tools for a long time. She was buying from catalogs when the ‘mail’ in ‘mail-order’ still meant “to call on the phone” so she has the relationships with these companies.

I want those companies to continue sending me her catalogs, so I treat them with the respect that they deserve. If I see something in a catalog that I want, I buy it from that company. I do NOT pull out my iPad to see if that item is cheaper on Amazon. That’s not right!

Amazon wants to forever strip me of the thrill of leafing through a catalog. Amazon wants to study all the information they’ve collected about me so that they can anticipate my next purchase with precision, offer it to me “just in time” and fly it to my house by drone. That may sound like the Jetson’s to some folks but check it out, it’s not. See (if you watched the video) when Jane (his wife) leaves the flying car, she is heading to a Shopping Center.

She’s also apparently planning to pay for her purchase with cash…sigh. I get it, we couldn’t imagine the world of Internet shopping back in the 60’s. But that doesn’t mean that every old way of doing business is antiquated.

Some things got to be old because they still work!

OK, I suspect that my editor has either passed out or is checking the yard for Pods. No honey, it’s really me. It’s true, I favor the “new and improved” version of just about anything, but not when it comes at the expense of what was is a better experience. Catalogs are better than websites.

Posted in Marketing, Tools, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

Because Stuff Happens (but didn’t)

imageAbout a week ago, I had the opportunity to watch a local fire department as they conducted a drill of rescue techniques. The invitation came as a result of my daughter having donated her car to be one of the subject vehicles. The car had also once been my wife’s ride, so it had served our family well but I think this may have been its finest hour.

Drills are conducted around a scenario; a particular set of circumstances conjured up to exercise specific techniques. The scenario last Tuesday:

A woman had been texting while driving and rear-ended a 15-passenger van carrying school children. Both vehicles collided with the guard rail, which broke free and then bent up and over the car, and a small tree which collapsed on the van.”

I felt bad for my daughter when the person running the drill explained the scenario to the crew. She had been introduced as the prior owner of the car, and when the guy said that “the woman had been texting…” everybody looked at Faith. Faith assured the crowd that she does NOT text while driving, wasn’t driving this car and didn’t cause this accident. Humorous comments followed nonetheless.

The evening was full of interesting observations, learning experiences and photo-ops. The equipment that they were using was very impressive and if the circumstances were different, I might have been jealous. OK, I was jealous. They brought out a pair of hydraulic shears and cut the door hinges off! How could you not be jealous of equipment like that? But, for most of the evening my jealousy was suppressed by the serious nature of what was going on and what it represented.

One of the senior firemen who was observing from a distance explained some of what was happening to Faith and me. One thing that struck me was when he said:

We try to make these scenes as realistic as possible but we really can’t replicate the kind of damage that you see in a real accident.

The car and the van had been pushed together with a pay loader. They had been beaten with sledge hammers, the doors had been pinched and then welded shut and the roof of the car had been crushed with the bucket of the pay loader. This was the kind of damage that can’t compare to a real accident!

To keep the drill interesting, as the scenario played out, they “discovered” that the passenger’s foot was trapped under the brake pedal of the car. That fact necessitated tearing off the roof and “rolling” the dash assembly up. I put rolling in quotes because that’s a portion of your car that isn’t actually designed to roll.

In the face of an emergency situation, people don’t always stop to think about all the little things they should do. People, myself included, sometimes just want to act. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but I will share some of the things that these guys did in seemingly routine fashion that I might not have considered:

They stabilized the van and the car with wood cribbing. They didn’t want either vehicle moving while they worked on them. Such movement could further injure the people trapped inside and /or injure the rescuers.

They made-ready a fire hose. If something happened and a fire started, they wanted to be able to act fast to extinguish it.

They lopped some branches off of the tree and stabilized the steel I-beam representing the guard rail. They did this to create a safe work area and rescue path.

They worked safely. From the gear that they wore (which must have been hot) to the lights and the rigging, they did their best to make sure that nobody was injured during the rescue operations.

This was a learning experience. These men need to be able to work in that protective gear, with those gloves on, in the dark, in the cold, in the rain and when things go from bad to worse. This is how they prepare for real life, when a real person who is texting does rear-end a van carrying school children because stuff like that happens.

I have to admit, as I looked at the scene of this make-believe accident, it was hard not to imagine my daughter being trapped in that car. No, she wouldn’t have been texting, she made that fact abundantly clear during the drill. But, accidents do happen and I am very grateful to the men and women everywhere who volunteer their time to plan and practice for and respond to fires, accidents and natural disasters. Those men and women all have families. They all have other things to do with their time, but they freely give that time to be better prepared to help the rest of us. So, out of respect for those volunteers, here are three bits of advice:

1) Do NOT text and drive. Not even for a little bit.

2) Support your local volunteer emergency first responders.

3) Do NOT text and drive (in case you forgot).

Posted in Learning, Service, Work Habits | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Impressive Political Moments

imageOn most days I travel through 5 or 6 towns on my way to work. New England is like that; a collection of tiny, congested, parochial little towns with identities confined within boarders that fly by, one after the other. By contrast to my 17 mile journey, the 35 mile trip from Des Moines, Iowa to Ames, Iowa (where my brother lives) appears to take you through precisely one town. As I cross the Bulkeley Bridge, I move seamlessly from Hartford to East Hartford. The best part of my commute is the fact that I am usually traveling against the flow of rush-hour traffic. That wasn’t the case today. Joe Biden came to East Hartford today.

For the benefit of my readers in other countries, Joe Biden is our Vice President and we don’t see him very often. Nobody has ever characterized the office of Vice President as well as Tom Lehrer did on his satirical album “That Was the Year That Wasimage back in the mid-60’s. The song “Whatever Became of Hubert” (only 1:32 if you care to give a listen) highlighted the fact that the VP spends most of his or (maybe someday) her time in the shadow of the big man or (maybe someday) woman. But today Joe Biden visited Goodwin College to attend a “roundtable discussion” on Workforce Development and Skills Training. CT Gov. Dannel Malloy (not a typo, his name is Dannel) also attended.

For all intents and purposes, Joe could have been attending a roundtable discussion on congestion on undersized highways, like Rt-2, the road that Joe traveled en-route to Goodwin College. He wasn’t there for the discussion, Dannel is running for re-election. Congestion wasn’t a problem for Joe and Dannel because Rt-2 was probably closed for the Vice Presidential motorcade.

I’m not sure when they started closing major highways to insure the safe passage of visiting top brass politicians, but I recall being stuck behind President Clinton from Hartford to the airport (BDL). Since I practically live at BDL, I was following his parade for 90% of my commute.

According to the news reports, the roundtable:

highlighted the school’s Certified Production Technician program, a collaboration between small and large employers and local industry partners…”

Did you notice “State and Federal Government” in that partnership? No, I didn’t either but it was a chance for Dannel to have his picture taken with Joe – the Governor of the third-smallest state and the least valuable politician who is capable of closing a highway. This is why I don’t have to remove my socks to count the impressive political moments I’ve experienced.

Ironically, the most impressive act by a politician that I ever witnessed, involved none other than Hubert Humphrey. Hubert wasn’t VP at the time, he was back in the Senate. Hubert was visiting Pittsburgh to stump for John E. Connelly who was running for the US House of Representatives seat that was left empty when Robert Corbett died. John Connelly also happened to own the Gateway Clipper Fleet, where I worked. Technically, I worked for a catering company that supplied the Gateway Clipper fleet with food for the shipboard events.

For the nightly Captain’s Dinner Cruise, we served imageRoast Beef, Ham, Rigatoni and Au Gratin Potatoes. In addition to driving the food from the catering kitchen to the dock, I scooped out the pasta and potatoes. For John Connelly’s fund-raiser, we served franks and beans. I say “we” but professional waiters had been hired to dish out the weenies and beans to the people who had paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege. I, along with the kitchen staff and deck hands, had been instructed to remain in the kitchen or on the tug (the boat that pushed the Party Liner on its nightly journey).

After dinner and the speeches, Hubert Humphrey started walking toward the back of the boat. John Connelly’s eagle-eyed entourage intercepted him as he got within a few yards of the kitchen. Not close enough for us to see, but close enough to hear:

You’re going the wrong way sir

I know where I am going

No, sir, that’s the entrance to the kitchen

I know that. If I’m going to be shaking hands, I’m going to start by shaking the hands of the men and women who made this night possible. You should remember that!

They had gotten close enough to see that that last line was directed at John Connelly.

As Hubert Humphrey walked through the kitchen, he shook our hands and he said something to each one of us. As he shook my hand, he said:

“What do you do here son?”

“I work for the company that prepares the food.”

“You’re doing a fine job.”

How I wished we hadn’t served hot dogs and beans.

John Connelly lost the election to John Heinz, the man whose family’s business probably made the franks and beans that we served that night. John Connelly wasn’t much of a politician, but he was a visionary businessman. He is credited with starting a movement to recapture the energy of the waterfront in Pittsburgh. That movement spread to many other fading industrial cities, including Hartford where Goodwin College is part of an effort to recapture the waterfront in the region.

Posted in Advice, History, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

5-Second Rules

imageM&M’s, Ritz Bits, Grapes, Twizzlers and Skittles are all subject to the standard 5-second rule. Drop it, and if you can pick it up, blow it off and eat it quickly enough, it’s not contaminated. Sure, you’d tell your kids to throw it out but if they’re in bed, you’re eating that bad boy. And the closer you are to the end of the bag, the longer it takes to count to five.

Hard-shell candy is a pretty easy decision. Unwrapped chocolate like Reese’s Minis raise the awareness of time and floor conditions a bit. Stuff that can be washed off is subject to the rule, but sticky stuff can’t be saved. Rice Krispy Treats – yeah those are going out – especially if you have cats.

The notion that ill-effects can be reversed if we act quickly enough is one that I think needs to be embraced by a much larger audience. No, I’m not talking about restaurant spills (although there is the spaghetti sauce story from my catering days…). I’m not even talking about food. I’m talking about the other inconvenient momentary lapses that I’ve suffered. Recently, I’ve been snared by a few online reservation dilemmas that have brought me to reach for a non-existent 5-second rule.

Two weeks ago, I was making airline reservations for a business trip later this year. I’ll be traveling on Southwest. I’m leaving some parties anonymous but this is necessary to the story. You see, sometimes when I fly, I try to include a stopover in Iowa – to visit my brother.

Southwest is a difficult airline on which to book a 3-city trip. You can book the first two legs of your journey on one reservation, but you can’t complete the loop. You need to book that last leg as a separate flight and then stitch the two flights together. It’s a bit unnerving because, for a few minutes, you’re not coming home.

First, I checked the regular round-trip fare. I need to do that to be able to split the cost with my employer. Then, I checked the cost of adding a stop in Des Moines to the trip. Des Moines (DSM), like nearby Bradley (BDL) where I start and end my trips, is a small “terminal destination” airport, meaning flights to and from it are expensive. The next step is one every husband will recognize. I checked with my wife to verify that the travel dates and costs work with our schedule and budget. Cleared for takeoff, so to speak, I checked the availability and pricing of hotel rooms in Iowa. image

Rooms were available at what I have come to accept as the normal price for staying at a Fairfield Inn in the middle of a corn field, albeit a corn field in a college town during the semester. Off to Southwest to complete parts one and two of my reservation. Back to the hotel site where I was greeted by a price that was now $110 more than the price I had been offered 10 minutes earlier. I called. I complained. I was told that not only was school in session, but there was a football game during my stay. “Prices change pretty quickly as rooms get scarfed up during football season” I was told. Small consolation.

I should have known better. I do know better. “Book the room” because you can cancel the room. You can’t always cancel a flight without paying a fee. In fact, I should have known this because of an earlier brush with an absent 5-second rule involving a side-trip to Iowa.

I had worked through the same reservation scenario with a different airline to extend a different business trip to include a stop in Iowa. That airline offered “multi-city” but I was flying from Boston to San Diego to Des Moines and then returning to Hartford so it was a bit more complex. I booked the hotels, the flights, and a rental car in one city and then I started to draft an itinerary for my wife. When I got to the last entry on that list, I realize that I had made the return flight one day later than I had planned. I called the airline:

I’m sorry but you’ve waited too long to correct this error for free. There will be a $125 fee to change your reservation.”

“$125? You have to be kidding. I made the reservations less than an hour ago.”

An argument ensued but ended when I realized that it was cheaper to stay in Iowa an extra day than it would be to change my flight. Coincidentally, this is when I started flying Southwest. I can hold a grudge a long time.

I mentioned the hotel brand earlier because in both cases, the people at Marriott were as gracious and helpful as they could be. In the “I hate your airline so much I’d rather stay an extra day in I-O-wa than give you $125” incident, Marriott not only changed my reservation, but the customer service representative pointed out that I had two free-night certificates that were expiring. Using those allowed me to both extend my stay and lower my cost. In this most recent reservation snafu, the customer service representative couldn’t invoke the 5-second rule I requested. However, he resurrected an already expired free-night certificate for one night, and he applied a Triple-A (AAA) discount to the other nights. His kind actions brought the cost to within $20 of my original budget.

I’m running up against my self-imposed word limit, but the other place I would add a 5-second rule is on line choices. Toll plazas, supermarkets, ice cream stands and TSA all need a 5-second rule that you can invoke once you realize that the line you just chose is moving slower than the next one over.

Posted in Customer Service, Family, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Music of the Road Gone By

imageLater this year, my daughter and I will be on a road-trip. That used to mean that we would have to plan the music, but that’s no longer a chore. The car is iPod ready and we both have iPod/iPhone collections of music. Faith has about 4 million songs and I have 25. I do have some that she doesn’t, including the theme song from Patton and Eric Clapton’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot” which (video) looks to be more fun than musicians should have.

I remember when road trips were a constant struggle to tune the AM radio in search of a station with decent music or if we were lucky, the Pirates game. Fortunately, the airwaves weren’t that crowded and KDKA had the power (it seemed) to reach halfway around the world. Then, sometime in the late 60’s, my father bought an 8-Track player for the car. Suddenly we had music. Our own music. Music that we could carry with us and control. 8-Track wasn’t the best quality sound, but it was way better than an AM radio signal drifting in and out of the static as we traveled from western PA to central Virginia.

On the first vacation drive with that 8-Track player, my dad decided that we would alternate choices between our favorite tapes. Dad cheated by bringing a 90-minute tape – “The Patsy Cline Story” which may have started my love affair with country music (I still sometimes get “Walkin’ After Midnight” stuck in my head). I had two Neil Diamond tapes that I had picked up in a bargain bin, the album with “Cherry Cherry and “Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show.” Mom had some musicals. Dad also had a 90-minute country / bluegrass mix-tape a friend had made for him.

I was still listening to 8-track tapes when I moved from NY to Seattle in 1977. Although cassette tapes had started to rule the world of portable music, I stuck with 8-Tracks until I got rid of my Pontiac Catalina in 1979. Auto tape players were expensive, time consuming to install and if you switched formats, you had to replace your music.

Trust me, if you’re driving across Nebraska, you don’t care about
the form-factor of the music, you just crank it up to keep you awake.

Four years later, as I moved back east, driving across Canada and the Canadian version of Nebraska, the car was a 1979 Triumph Spitfire, the media was cassettes and 70’s rock was the music of choice.

Cassettes piled up in the 80’s and coexisted imagealongside my CD’s through the 90’s because I had a cassette player in my truck and I had that truck for over 10 years. Pickup trucks are made for country music. I had lots of country music mix-tapes and country favorites like Highway 101 Greatest hits. On the road trip through Washington State that my daughter wrote about, Faith and I listened to that tape so many times as we tried to put the songs in order of the relationship that must have inspired them. The worst mistake ever was when that band’s founder, Paulette Carlson got all cocky and decided to start her lackluster solo career. I guess that happens a lot in music.

A couple of years later, Faith and I had a music malfunction and the worst road trip as far as music was concerned. We drove along the coast from San Francisco to Portland, OR. We toured around and bombed back down I-5. Faith was in charge of music and had brought a bunch of CDs. Unfortunately; the rental car had a Cassette deck. She had precisely 1 cassette. We listened to Fleetwood Mac “Greatest Hits” 5,000 times.

Two years ago, Faith and I teamed up for another 1,500 mile plus road trip, this time on a loop from Connecticut through Gettysburg and Pittsburgh. We had CDs, a CD player an iPod ready car and devices galore. Music had ceased to be an issue. In fact, while heading home through the middle of Pennsylvania, I added to our playlist when I purchased John Lennon’s “Imagine” on my iPhone. The only bad part about that purchase was discovering that Faith likes “Oh Yoko!

These days, cars have CD/MP3 players, are iPod/device at batcand Pandora ready. My car came with satellite radio, but I prefer my music and I let that contract lapse. I still have an eclectic mix of country music, rock and soft rock CDs to augment the 25 songs on my iPod Nano. One of the things I like the best though is listening to the Pirates game, on KDKA via MLB At Bat on my iPhone. When my brother and I moved my mother from Pittsburgh to Iowa last year, we listened to one of those ball games in the rental truck. Just like old times, only without the static.

Do you have some memorable road trips or favorite traveling music?

Posted in Family, Nostalgia, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Maybe Disorder Wasn’t the Right Word

imageLast week, my friend Brad Lewis shared a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post article titled:

What to Eat To Get Your Sleep Back On Track

Seeing the link made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, Brad links to food articles that range from recipes for cooking Kale to pictures of mile-high sandwiches from New York delis. I’ve eaten Kale. I’ve eaten at the Carnegie Deli (Brad’s apparent favorite). Deli is better. If you told me that a dish of Kale would add two days onto my normal lifespan and that a Pastrami sandwich from the Carnegie Deli would reduce my lifespan by two days, I would choose the sandwich, hands down. I don’t know what the over under would have to be on that score before I would choose Kale.

The other reason I had to laugh is that the article reminded me of when I was frantically researching the topic of “sleep disorders” because I was convinced that I was suffering from one.

Note: If you actually are suffering from a sleep disorder, I am sorry. You may not want to read any more of this post. I am not going to make fun of people who suffer such things, but you may grow to despise me before you get to the end.

My research took place many years ago. The Internet was imageavailable, but it wasn’t the treasure-trove of medical journals, old wives tales, home remedies and 24/7 Prayer Request hotlines that it is today. So, in addition to my online investigation, I was asking other people for advice.

I got lots of advice regarding what to eat / not eat. What to do / not do in the (1 to 3) hours before going to bed. What temperature to set the thermostat at, how many blankets to use, the type of pillow to lay on and the type of underwear / pajamas I should wear / not wear to bed.

One friend told me that he had been suffering from sleep disorders for years and that the only sure-fire remedy involved the periodic use of a sleeping pill. He added that some over-the-counter meds might help, but that prescription solutions were the way to go. He even offered to introduce me to his doctor.

I didn’t want to go down the medication road, so I suggested that maybe my particular disorder wasn’t yet that severe. Unconvinced, and expressing genuine concern, he began:

What is your nighttime routine?

I normally read for a while before deciding to go to sleep.

Him, still concerned: “How long do you lie awake once you’ve decided that you want to go to sleep?

Me, truly serious: “Sometimes up to 10 or 15 minutes!

Him. No. Longer. Concerned. At. All: “Whaaaaat the…?

I explained that I had been used to always being able to fall asleep as soon as I wanted to fall asleep. No lying awake stuff for me. Lights out. Head down. Zzzzz’s.

My friend explained that sometimes, if he was lucky, a sleeping pill would take effect within 10 – 15 minutes, and he urged me to never use the phrase “sleep disorder” to describe my condition again.

Still convinced that I was suffering from something serious, I continued my research. A couple of weeks later, I stumbled across a documentary on sleep and sleep disorders. I watched as they explored various conditions and various approaches to dealing with said conditions. Finally, near the end of the show, one of the experts caught my attention:

Oftentimes, the problem people have falling asleep can be traced to the time they go to bed. Your body loves a routine. If you go to bed at a different time on weekends, for example, than you do during the week, you might develop a sleep disorder. The best thing you can do is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.”

It was as if he was speaking just to me. I was getting up at 5:00 am for work but sleeping until 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. That had to be the cause of my malady.

The following Saturday, I got up at 5:00 am. While pouring a cup of coffee, my wife (who gets up very early) asked: “why are you up this early?” I guess that that wasn’t the kind of question that was meant to be answered:

I was watching this show on PBS about sleep disorders and one of the experts was talking about how important it is…

You’re talking. Why are you talking?

By this time the cats were staring at me and the dog might have been growling.

You asked…

No, you’re not talking to me at 5:00 am. If you want to be up, be up somewhere else. We (her and the nesting animals) have a routine, and it doesn’t involve talking!

Oh…ok.”

I might be exaggerating a bit, you know, for effect, but that was the gist of the conversation.

Oddly enough, the practice cured me of my “disorder.” In fact, I have imagediscovered by trial and error that I can sleep in until 6:00 am on weekends with no ill-effect. I still get up, get my coffee and make myself scarce. And, I still avoid conversation until one is started by someone else. These days, our dog requires that I sit on a particular couch with her for 15-20 minutes before heading to the family room and my laptop. She’s still a puppy; if our previous dogs are any indication, she will stop needing that bit of attention soon.

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