I am getting sleepy . . . sleeeeeeepy . . .
Especially after reading this New Yorker essay about NYC transit police doggedly waking up sleepers in subway cars. A particularly insightful passage from it follows:
“Most people are not sleeping because they do not have time to sleep. They have small children or jobs that start early—or, not at all infrequently, both. They are high-school kids expected, against all reason, to get to school at 8 A.M. and then take home four hours of homework at night, as part of an arms race with other kids doing the same things. They have one job or two—or else they race from gig to gig and chore to chore as rapidly as they can.
Which leads us to the point: people are not sleeping on the subway now because it is fun. They are not most often these days sleeping on the subway because they are stoned or homeless. They are sleeping on the subway because they are sleepy. Exhaustion is the signature emotion of our time. . . . Overworked, overstressed, today’s sleeping rider is a symbol and a symptom of today’s subway: the bullet train of the wrung-out classes, the perpetual-motion machine that services today’s errand-driven economy.”
Sleep, we are told at the greatest frequency ever, is the absolute elixir to all that ails us as individuals and as a society. More sleep equals better work ethic, keener study habits, stronger family relationships, healthier and less cynical interactions inside and outside the office. I’m waiting for Bernie Sanders to offer free nap time for all.
Time, of course, is the ticklish issue, as the New Yorker piece points out to the chronically overscheduled and under-rested masses. “Exhaustion is the signature emotion of our time,” Adam Gopnik writes.
I can’t yawn at that; it’s a good and true line. (You won’t believe me, but my head just bobbed with torpor as I pondered my next sentence – this one – at the computer. At a little past 1 in the afternoon.) I feel more tired than what seems right many days. Most days. I promise myself to do something about it, to shoot for closer to the idyllic, All-American and Mayo Clinic eight hours, which then always frankly seems a bridge way too far. I don’t want to go to bed at 10 every night, nor am I able to do it. So if I can even somehow pocket seven bags of zzzzs, it feels like I’m stealing.
As to the sleeping-in-public issue, it’s one I never considered a health or public-safety consideration. I guess I am in favor of it, though. The public snooze, I mean. Granted, it’s often not pretty. It can get noisy and uncomfortable, especially for your neck or your suddenly snore-assaulted aisle-mate on the plane. Ugh.
We come to understand the embarrassment of being caught asleep at the switch, to say nothing of asleep at the wheel. Asleep on the subway car seat? The worry is, we are then a wood-sawing sitting duck for a pick-pocket or other nefarious individual up to no good, as well as a well-documented risk to wake up much farther down the line then our intended point of disembarkment.
And so the proverbial signs are now posted, re The New Colossus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. Your slumbering need not apply.”