Mar 1, 2004

A Night of Horror! (actually, I just didn't get much sleep)

NOTE: This was written sometime in January, after a particularly harrowing experience with someone’s science fair project. I added a note at the end about the aftermath.

It was around 11:00 p.m., and I'd finally finished all my homework. I climbed in bed, looking forward to a restful night, (followed by more hell the next day, of course, but that's a different story).

But it's a weird thing with me. The longer I just lie in bed, thinking, the more things I think of that I'm convinced can't wait until the morning. I have to completely wake myself up, turn on the lights and get my planner. Next is the usual frantic search for a pencil; I usually end up writing with a stunted piece of lead that's so short I can't even hold it.

Finally, having written whatever it was down, I get back in bed. Then I think of something else. In this case, the mandatory 2 liter Coke bottle for the Math & Science tournament that Saturday.

I resisted, I really did. I tried to tell myself that it could wait until the morning. Of course, it didn't work. Then the real trouble started. When I got out my planner again, I was looking at the dates and I knew that I had forgotten something.

Something about Friday…Grace’s Science Fair project! NOTE: Grace is not her real name, but I really don’t want Benita to hit me with her obscenely thick Stephen King book, so I’m changing her name for this column.

Muttering a steady stream of curses all the way, I stumbled down the dark hallway to the other room, where the CD player was. Actually, it's a boom box, and actually, it's quite heavy. I must have dented the walls three or four times on the return trip.

I fished out her science fair project packet from my backpack, ripped out the staples of the sealed packet, and dumped the contents out on the floor. The project involved having people (mostly those that Grace didn’t like) listen to vocabulary words every night for a few days in a row, and then when they woke up, take a test to find out how much they’ve learned.

Keep in mind that it was around 12:30 a.m. by this time.

I put the CD for the words into my CD player:
"This is a test to see if you can memorize vocabulary words in sleep…" and so on. Then it started with music. Loud music. Of course, in the middle of the night, everything is loud. But there was nothing else to do. I turned the volume down to the level where it was just barely audible, covered the green, glowing screen of the CD player with Grace’s tests, and went to sleep.

Or rather, I tried. When there's nothing going on but music, and you're trying to go to sleep: it's extremely hard. One thing was obvious. The music was still too loud. After about ten minutes it sounded like it was right in my ears, even though the CD player was across the room. I turned the volume down again, to the point that an extremely sensitive dog would have a hard time hearing it, and went back to bed.

The next thirty minutes (or so it seemed) had me wondering when the actual words were going to start. Maybe Grace had mixed up the CDs.

To make things worse, the music was not sleepy music. It was some sort of allegro, or something; it was fast. Scales going up and down tens of thousands of times, huge finales, dynamic contrast, it was all there. By now I was entertaining glorious visions of taking my bedside lamp and sending it flying in a perfect arc across the room to smash the CD player to bits.

I'm not sure how, but I finally managed to get to sleep. Or maybe it was more along the lines of losing consciousness.

Around 4 or 5, I think, I woke up again. It was still playing music. It had probably just gone around the CD a couple of times, but if listening to music had me lying awake, then listening to a person reading vocabulary words would be torture. I lurched out of bed, trailing sheets that were tangled around me, and lunged for the power button. The green screen faded, the red power light extinguished itself.

I went back to sleep. I had to catch up for all the rest I had missed. Of course, by then I only had about an hour before I had to wake up. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do about this. I came up with many solutions to my problem while listening to the melodies of Mozart at 1 in the morning, starting with claiming that I had lost the CDs going through simply pretending I had listened to the CDs and just taking the tests anyways, all the way to setting one of those plug timers on my CD player and having it turn on in a couple of hours when I would probably be asleep. (By the way, the last didn't work because the CD player doesn't turn on automatically when it is plugged in or receives power.)

Wish me luck and sound sleep. I’m going to need it.

ADDED: I eventually decided to not listen to the CDs, but instead to fake the entire test. On a few of the answers, just to make it seem authentic, I purposefully messed up. Just don’t tell Grace. It’ll be hard to explain the blood and brain particles on her book when she has to return it to the library.

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