Up All Night

January 26, 2007

There are a lot of medications people can take if they can’t sleep, although most of them have side effects like vomiting, cramps, back ache, diarrhea, catarrh, and spontaneous disintegration, so it sounds like you’re probably just better off not sleeping. My problem is getting out of bed in the morning, and on those rare occasions when something wakes me up in the middle of the night and I can’t get back to sleep I don’t think taking a pill is going to help me when the alarm goes off. And if it gets really bad I can always think of my old algebra teacher Mr. Blankley. Mr. Blankley was the only teacher I ever had who sat on his desk and never moved. It wasn’t just that he never left his classroom–I don’t think he ever even stood up. I’ve seen piles of gravel that were more active, and when he talked about complicated formulae we had to follow him as well as we could, which was really hard because of his voice. Mr. Blankley was about an octave below bass baritone, and would drawl his sibilants. And by that I mean he’d talk like this: "Studentssss, today we are going to take a quizzzzz on sectionssss ssssixxxx and sssseven." By the time he got to the end of the word "students" we were all asleep. Did I mention this was the first class I had in the morning?

Not that it would have made a difference. Mr. Blankley was more dangerous than chloroform. On parents’ night, when all our parents got to meet our teachers, someone with ear plugs had to come in and wake up all the parents and drag them out of his room before he could start talking again. You could be stripped to your underwear and thrown in a meat locker and Mr. Blankley’s voice would still put you to sleep in under a minute. I tried everything I could think of to stay awake, like asking questions. I’d raise my hand and ask, "Is ‘quizzz’ spelled with three z’s or four?" That didn’t do any good because if you stopped Mr. Blankley mid-sentence he’d just go back to the beginning and start over. Since I wasn’t learning any algebra I tried doing homework for my other classes that I couldn’t do the night before because I was, er, because my house had been invaded by ninjas. I’d take out my civics homework and start on a question like, "Could a gorilla serve in Congress? Explain." And I’d write, "No. Textbook writers like to use the word ‘Explain’ a lot to cover up the fact that they’re too lazy to come up with real questions." Except I’d end up writing "questionssss" and then I’d be asleep again and have to go into civics class and say to the teacher, "Is homework really necessary? Explain." Fortunately I made it out of both civics and algebra alive. I’ve been thinking that I should find Mr. Blankley, which should be easy because he’s probably still attached to his desk, and, with a thick protective shield, record his voice to sell as a cure for insomnia. The only potential side effect would be that you might learn algebra. Then again you might be better off with the spontaneous disintegration.

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