Like many people, despite there being probably more years of life behind me than ahead, I have always been uncomfortable with the notion of my own mortality.
Many years ago while browsing through a bookshop I came across a book called How We Die, which went to graphic, explicit detail of the exact bodily processes that occur when a body dies.
I lacked the courage to even open up the book.
I remember thinking that if I read the book I would then be accepting my eventual demise.
Accepting my demise then would mean I would eventually die.
But if I didn´t read the book, then I could continue to deny death´s possibility, thus living forever.
Much like the conservative right in America who have convinced themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that global warming doesn´t exist because they refuse to believe it exists.
Thinking very similar to an ostrich:
If I stick my head in the ground and I can´t see the advancing lions, then the lions can´t see me!
Now of all the many ways a man can die:
(It is truly frightening just how many ways there are and just how fragile our bodies really are.)
One of these is sleep deprivation –
You die for lack of sleep.
Generally speaking your faithful blogger has usually averaged five to six hours per night without there being any negative side effects.
(Unless you count male pattern balding!).
But the past few weeks there have been changes in my sleeping patterns.
My wife has moved to Zürich for much of the week.
So there are many nights I have fallen asleep on the living room couch watching DVDs, surrendering to sleep at about one in the morning, waking up in the middle of the night to return to my bed, then a few hours later the WC beckons…
And another day begins.
An average of 4 hours of sleep a day.
As followers of my blog know I have two jobs:
I am a freelance English teacher.
I work part-time for two Starbucks cafes in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
As anyone who serves the public will tell you:
The month of December and the first half of January are insanely busy.
As well, in the field of gastronomy, staff turnover is ever a Problem.
So restaurants and cafes find themselves swamped with too much work to be done by too few people.
So part-time baristas like myself are a Godsend if they are willing to work more hours to help out.
As I rarely say “No”,
To the blue eyes of Corinne, the Bahnhof cafe assistant Manager,
Or the brown eyes of Jackie, the Marktplatz cafe Manager,
I find my time divided between the cafes, a sudden positive reversal of fortune in my teaching career and spending what little time that is left with my wife.
This week my limits have been tested.
Thursday night, late shift at the Bahnhof, home at 10 pm, little sleep overnight, despite all efforts.
Friday morning, up at 4 am, train at 5 am to St. Gallen, start at 0630 at the Marktplatz.
Work till mid-afternoon, take the train home, then prepare myself mentally and physically for that always dreaded annual ritual:
My wife´s staff Xmas Party where spouses are expected to attend.
My wife is German and a doctor, so:
Picture the grand dining room of a restaurant,
(This year, the Pier Restaurant in Uttwil, by the Lake of Constance)
You are in a room of professional doctors all gabbing away in German or Swiss German.
Though over time your German has improved, it is still a Heruclean effort to hold up your end of the conversation with people whose daily job you barely understand.
You are in the middle of a long table, a well-dressed woman to both your left and right engaged in animated conversation with the ladies across and beside them.
And, as every year previous, here you are again sitting across the table from the one person not engaged in conversation with anyone else, your wife´s Boss.
Like yourself the Boss is feeling like an isolated rooster in a very large henhouse, as paediatrics (children´s medicine) is dominated by women.
The Boss looks at you, expecting you as a guest to “sing for your supper” by iniatating clever dialogue and discussion with him.
I have never been a master of small talk, but, of course, in my dual roles as teacher and barista I am no stranger to getting others to talk by showing interest in their lives.
Now the Boss feeling isolated attaches himself to you.
You are a rock in the middle of an ocean.
He is a seagull desperately seeking land.
You talk about his role as Chefarzt (Head Doctor), his responsibilities and challenges, his plans for his eventual retirement.
Conversation, all iniatated by you, now turns to where he lives and the boat he is very proud of owning and operating.
“Where the hell is dinner?”, you think.
You are desperately hoping that the questions you are asking the Boss this year were not questions you asked last year.
Dinner is finally served.
In fairness, doctors do know how to feast grandly.
As ever, I can´t decide whether my frequent requests for more wine and additional servings are prompted by the glutton´s greed of hunger and thirst,
Or fear that if the flow of food and drink stops, then the need to engage in conversation will resume.
Your wife is enjoying herself,
Chatting away merrily with her work colleagues,
Having the time of her life.
And you are happy for her.
Nothing is more wonderful than seeing beautiful women enjoying one another´s company.
Men, unless close friends, are never at ease when forced to converse with one another.
Not much dialogue is needed for North American males, strangers to one another.
“Not much. You?”
Both parties satisfied.
You have been up since 0400.
You have slept about four hours in the past 48.
The women don´t want the night to end.
Now, for those ladies new to the world of men, a couple of tips from the Owner/Operator´s Guide to Men:
Feed a man immediately when he is hungry.
Let a man sleep when he needs to.
It is close to midnight.
Your “get up and go” has long ago “got up and went”.
Watching your watch has become obsessive.
That gentle “good as gold” gentlemanly behaviour you have maintained up til now has been replaced by an impatient ol´grump.
Rudely you remove your Smart phone from inside your suit jacket and consult the train schedule.
You threaten to leave without her.
She can easily get home with her colleagues who live nearby.
But women are rarely dissuaded by their menfolk.
Basic female psychology:
Tell a woman to do something.
Her goal in life will be to refuse.
Tell her not to do something.
Immediately her every desire is bent upon doing that very thing she is denied.
So, in desperation, or simply in a “don´t give a damn” determination, you pull out the last card in your deck of tricks:
Making a scene.
Nothing is more important to many women than how they are perceived by others.
Too late I realize my mistake.
I no longer wonder where the lions are.
The danger is no longer death by sleep deprivation.
The danger is death by a group of doctors well acquainted with the concept.
“Who brought the Canadian?” becomes the general consensus.
Eventually, you get home.
The sweet embrace of your bed awaits, but she wants to talk about what just happened.
Hang your head like a disciplined dog.
Last thought before consciousness brings a smile to your face:
Perhaps you won´t be invited to next year´s Xmas Party.