Tuesday, 14 June 2005

wake up to yourself




Mid June. I'm entering the part of the year when warm quiet rooms, fewer hours of sunlight, and long periods of time sitting at a desk reading, combine to make it nearly impossible for me to stay awake all through the day. Right now my eyelids are heavy and drooping, even though I've just come in, five minutes ago, from a thick black espresso followed by a long walk around outside in the cold dry air. Up until the beginning of 2005 I shared my office here at Uni with a person who almost never availed himself of the desk space, so when the drowsy fit came over me I'd just lock the door, lie on the floor, and sleep it off. I'd put my head on a thickly ribbed green corduroy cushion brought from home, so as to avoid too much touching of the lovely 1967-installed carpet (which still bears the traces of the weekend a pack of evil seagulls got in through an accidentally-left-open window and had a birdshit party all over every horizontal surface, including the tops of the books on the shelves.) One afternoon I arose from my corduroy pillow refreshed and went out to the common room for a drink of water before the next tutorial; in the kitchen a professor pointed out I had a very fetching pink and white 'ridged' imprint effect pressed into the entire left side of my face. What a fine way to earn the respect and admiration of one's students and colleagues.

I get sleepy in libraries, too. The domed reading room at the State Library is my favourite place for writing, but I'm fairly sure I've never made it through a day there without putting my head on the desk and closing my eyes for fifteen minutes. How embarrassment. At least I'm not the only one - every day you'll see somebody in there dozing off over their books. The back view is generally the most entertaining, I find.

One morning last year I was sitting in the reading room trying hard to understand something i'd written when a strange woman came over to my table. Basically, she wanted me to pretend to be asleep so she could take my photograph; she was making a collection of pictures of people asleep in libraries, or so she said. (Doesn't it seem a bit stupid to think up a project like that then go around basically faking it?) I was a bit annoyed at being interrupted that way, and besides I knew I'd feel really silly: so I said no. But she asked again! She really liked the colour of my jumper, she said. What a nerve....

Relative to the falling-asleep at desks, I thought I'd heard somewhere that sitting at a table or desk and looking down at a book or something laid flat on the surface positions one's head, spine, and eyes into the configuration that's the same one the body adopts for sleep, and so the compulsion to sleep is particularly strong. But I can't find any hint of that on the net, today. Maybe I made it up.

I haven't had too much bad luck as a teacher with sleepy students, fortunately, but I've worked alongside several people who seem to find it impossible to stay awake in meetings & research seminars & the like. Personally, I love it when somebody goes to sleep in the middle of an interminable and interminably dull speech or paper. At a single stroke it absolves you from registering any sort of protest yourself as well as from paying any further attention to the speaker, and it gives you something interesting to look at. Just as long as Brendan Nelson doesn't twig that sleeping on the job is apparently a sackable offence.

Right, back to work.

8 comments:

Ampersand Duck said...

Ahhh, memories...
Once I fell asleep in a nice quiet corner of the ANU library in the mid-afternoon and woke to find all the lights off and the doors locked -- after midnight! I refrained from running naked through the stacks or making a cosy nest of large colourful art monographs. The security man let me out with a big snide grin until I said goodbye (ANU Security have a charming acronym, and they're a bit sensitive about it :)) and of course nobody had missed me in my stoner group house. Probably the best sleep I've ever had.

harry said...

Blame it on the air-conditioning.
It's what does it for me.

Ampersand Duck said...

I'm envious that you're reading "Time's Arrow". I've been trying to find it second-hand for ages, but no-one seems to be giving up their copies for the good of humankind. I think I'll have to buy it new. I've just re-read all his early novels, and have been struggling to enter "Yellow Dog", but just can't warm to it. I have great hopes for "T's A".

Mel said...

Let us not even get into the embarrassment potential of drooling combined with all of the above. Once I fell asleep over a book on ancient Greek vases and woke up with half an amphora tattooed on my cheek through some process of salivary transfer.

Lucy Tartan said...

Ampersand, I picked mine up for $5 at a Collins clearance sale - I've been seeking them out like the vulture that i am.

The book is exquisite - I'm almost ready to forgive him for other sins.

Lucy Tartan said...

like Dead Babies, for instance. Did you include that in your sweep through the early efforts?

Ampersand Duck said...

Yes. I prefer The Rachel Papers. I'll keep my eyes peeled at clearances. I thought I'd find one at the Lifeline Book Fair, but obviously Canberrans like the book too much.

trashglam said...

glad someone mentioned the sin that was Dead Babies. i had no desire to go anywhere near his books after that one. someone convinced me that Money was worth a gander and really, just couldn't see the appeal. no danger of falling asleep reading Amis, i suppose, just that of an exploding blood vessel.