Double Feature Friday: INSOMNIA and THE BICYCLE THIEF

As of Monday, Susie will have been gone to Florida for two weeks.  I am already eagerly anticipating her return to Columbus in August, especially since it’ll mean my first trip to Florida, when I go down to bring her back.

The rest of my “bachelor summer” just has to be better than my Thursday night-Friday morning has been.  On Thursday, I spent the night at Central Ohio Sleep Medicine.  My psychiatrist is also a sleep specialist, and at my last appointment, he and I decided it was best if we re-evaluated my sleep situation from the ground up.  (He is a nationally recognized expert on sleep, and here is his Website.)

The sleep technician woke me up at 6 a.m. yesterday with the news that my sleep apnea is quite severe.  It is so bad that I stopped breathing completely at least 50 times during the night.  She gave me a C-PAP, nose pillows, and a ton of documentation about how to operate it.  (The model is quite compact.  Were it not for the hose, you would think it was a clock radio.)

I am not wild about the prospect of sleeping while hooked up to a machine every night, including having to wear a chin strap so my jaw stays closed.  I anticipate a nightly bedtime procedure cum ritual that resembles a pilot’s pre-flight checklist.  Not a good thing, since I tend to stay up until I’m about ready to drop over from exhaustion.

I haven’t slept a full night with the machine yet.  I left a call on the medical equipment provider’s voice mail because I had some issues with the machine last night, which meant I finally went to sleep around dawn sans the machine.  (Much as I hated to do it, I called the bookstore and told them I’d be unable to come in.  That’s about $64 in pay to which I bade farewell.)

But enough about my sleep, and the night at the clinic in Gehenna Gahanna.  (I love telling people the sleep clinic is in the Valley of Hinnom.)  The worst was yet to come.

I arrived back home around 9:30.  The first thing I saw was that my trike was gone.  I went around to the side of the house, and sure enough, my cable lock was still there, but someone had snipped it evenly in half.  The ends were not frayed.  I don’t know what the thief used, but it cut through a Master cable lock as easily as if it was Kleenex.

I took Susie to see this at Studio 35 about a year and a half ago.  Oh, the irony!

I logged a police report online, because using the Columbus Police Department’s Website would take less time and be less frustrating than wading through the voice mail hell you experience when you dial (614) 645-4545.  I then went to several places in the neighborhood that sell used bikes, described the bike, and asked them to be on the lookout.  I did the same thing online to the Third-Hand Bicycle Co-Op and the Facebook page for the World Naked Bike Ride.

I am guardedly optimistic I will see the bike again.  Several people pointed out to me that an adult tricycle would be very conspicuous in Columbus, so now I have many pairs of eyes looking out for it.  If anyone tries to sell it, bike stores will notify the police.  This was Pride Weekend, and although I missed the Pride Parade downtown, I went to the post-parade festivities in Goodale Park and scrutinized every bike in the bike corral.  I came up with a goose egg.

I have not always been in the position of being able to do this, but later on Friday afternoon, I went to Walmart’s Website and ordered a new trike.  Like the cherry red one, it’s a 26″ Schwinn Meridian.  The only difference (that I could tell from the Website) is that it is blue, rather than red.  I may be overreacting, and succumbing a little to paranoia, but I asked Walmart to ship the bike to me care of a friend, so, if the thief decides to pay a return visit, he/she won’t be tempted by the box on my porch when FedEx Ground delivers.

So, another session of Build-a-Bike looms in the near future.  It may have been rash to immediately whip out the debit card and order a new trike, but riding it has been therapeutic for me, and it improves my mood better than the 900 mg of lithium I take every day.  Even when I go out to run a simple errand, I take the long way around and try to explore unfamiliar streets.  (As a gesture of faith, I am using the present tense.  I hope to be on three wheels again by this weekend.  I want to take my new trike to Comfest.)

This time around, the trike will remain in my dining room when I have it at home.  I will also buy a thick U-lock for it, a lock that a thief will really have to work at to break.

And I hope to have more thoughts and accounts borne out of the rides I make on the blue Meridian.  But first it has to arrive here in Columbus, and then be assembled.  I checked my bank account–the amount has been deducted from my balance, and now I await delivery.

Proof That I’m Sleeping More Soundly

The Weather Channel’s Website is notorious for sending me storm warning emails every time the sun goes behind a cloud, so I usually delete them unread from my Inbox.  Tuesday night, I should have paid more attention to them, but I didn’t realize what I missed until afterwards.  I was skeptical as always about any bad weather on the horizon.  As Susie and I were leaving her choir practice at church, the ground was dry and not a drop of rain had fallen.

It would seem that I slept through a typhoon pre-dawn Wednesday morning.  My clock radio went off at 7 a.m. as usual.  I almost always wake up for brief periods of time during the night, still too tired to get out of bed, but awake enough to be able to glance at the digital clock and say, “Ah, I have x hours of sleep left before I have to get up.”  Susie has been on spring break this entire week, so I haven’t heard her moving around as she gets ready to head out to catch the school bus.

Susie was still in bed Wednesday morning when I roused myself a little after 7.  Seven a.m. is late for her, since she has to catch her bus at 6:30 (I think she sets her alarm for 5:45).  As I was in the shower, Steph came in and asked me if I had heard all the sirens during the night.

This completely puzzled me.  What sirens?  When she first mentioned “sirens,” my first thought was that there had been several arrests during the night.  We have no shortage of reprobate neighbors, including the Bickersons on the other side of our half double.  It would not at all be unusual for police to be coming en masse because of some disturbance or another.

When Steph mentioned all the wind and the rain, I realized she didn’t mean police sirens.  The tornado sirens had gone off, and there had been plenty of high-velocity winds and rain pelted the house.  Steph’s bedroom faces the street, and there are no buildings across the street, so she could see and feel it all as it beat against her windows.  (My bedroom windows face the windows of the house next door, so there is a buffer between any weather and my room.)  She said she pulled up Channel 10’s Doppler radar on her laptop, and watched the storm as it changed.  She considered awakening Susie and me, so we could all head to the basement (no doubt with laptop in tow, either on the National Weather Service’s site or Channel 10’s) and wait out the storm.

Before she could marshal the energy to do that, the worst of the storm had passed over our area.  I blissfully slept through the whole thing, and it seems I wasn’t alone.  Adding to my hesitancy about whether a tornado was really happening, the Conrail tracks are not too far from our house, and they run parallel to our street.  The trains’ sounds are easy to block, and I’m sure that if a real tornado was bearing down on us, my first thought would be it was a really fast and a really loud train roaring by.  (I have heard that’s what a tornado sounds like when you’re in the midst of it.)

When I got to work, many of my fellow employees were comparing notes about the ferocity of the storm, how loudly the sirens sounded (and for how long), and what damage they had seen.  One of my supervisors lives in Groveport, and the storm came within kissing distance of her neighborhood.  (Other than some overturned garbage cans, I saw no evidence of a storm, not even felled tree limbs.)

I have never had a fear of storms or inclement weather.  When I was younger, they were a welcome treat, a change from the usual.  When the power went out, it was even more exciting.  The transistor radio was our only conduit for news and information.  Candles burned in every room, and sometimes I would even be allowed to carry a candle of my own–and I was forbidden to be anywhere near matches, even to blow out my parents’ matches after they had lit cigarettes with them.

This never changed.  When I was 10 or 11, a storm was an excellent opportunity to start a taped letter to my grandfather, retired and living in Dunedin, Fla.  Had he lived in this day and age, he probably would have spend his summers as a storm chaser.  My mother said that the grayer and darker the skies were, the greater the chances they would find him lying in the back yard, intently studying the clouds and the sky as they changed colors and patterns.  This stayed with him for life–he always had a book about storms nearby, and these books were his Bible when the weather turned bad.  (He had even given our family a copy of Eric Sloane’s The Book of Storms, which I gripped in my hands whenever I first heard thunder.  I later bought copies of some of Sloane’s other books, such as A Museum of Early American Tools and Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake–1805.)

I doubt I saw 95% of the storms in this book, and
for that I should probably be grateful.

My mother said that her mother would always be yelling out at the back door, “Lester!  Get in here!!  You’ll get soaked!”  My grandfather didn’t care about that.  Storms fascinated him, as much as his other hobbies of bird-watching and rock-hounding.  (He was kind of a rural Renaissance man.  During his long career of public-school teaching, he taught every subject except music, home economics, and typing at least once.)

Whenever I was making these tapes, I would always stop what I was saying whenever the weather report came on, and put the microphone up against the radio speaker and let him hear the announcer read the latest information about where the storm had been, and where it was going.

I’ve lost none of that.  I find storms exhilarating even to this day.  A little more so when I’m indoors, yes, that’s true, but I enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with battening down the hatches, and waiting for it to pass.  (I remember humming REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ the Storm Out” to myself sometimes when I’ve been alone and waiting for these crises to pass.)

There are people who, quite understandably, don’t share this attitude.  One of my teachers at St. Mary’s Middle School in Marietta told the class about how storms frightened her mother.  As soon as she heard the first clap of thunder, she would surround her statue of the Blessed Mother with lit votive candles, and out would come the rosary beads.

During the summer of 1987, I was living in a rented room above a small store in Elmwood Place, a village about 6½ miles north of downtown Cincinnati.  I was working as a typesetter at Feicke Web.  About 2 p.m., I was just awakening (I worked an evening shift, typesetting the illustrious Homefinder magazine), and it seemed muggier than usual, and the sky was yellowish bordering on purple.  I went downstairs to get a meal before work.  The owner of one of the shops on Vine St. was sweeping the walk and a chubby pre-teen boy came up to him, his eyes like saucers.  (Years later, the Martin Prince character on The Simpsons made me think of him.)  “Mr. [So-and-So]!” the kid said, out of breath.  “Have you heard the news?  A tornado has been spotted!”  The kid thought that this was indeed grave news.  The sentence came out, “A tore NAY dough has been spot ted,” each syllable a word in its own right.

My first thought was that this kid was way overreacting.  But later I realized that the village would never be cavalier about tornadoes.  Elmwood Place experienced substantial damage during the Super Outbreak of tornadoes in April 1974, from one of the minor storms that spun off the tornado that flattened Xenia.  I doubt this kid was alive then, or if he was, he would have been an infant, but he must have grown up hearing anecdotes about it from the time before he could walk.

So, I’m old enough to sleep through a storm that produced many decibels of noise, from rain, wind, and sirens.  It’s a hell of a way to learn my sleeping is improving, that I’m actually sleeping more soundly.