The consequences of moderate-term sleep deprivation are many: frontal lobe activity is surpressed, leading one to blurt out inappropriate statements at inopportune times; memory fails, rote calculations become just out of arms’ reach, which can be amusing when trying to tip a waiter; and manual dexterity decreases alarmingly. For those Dungeons & Dragons geeks out there, consider this loss on a scale of -5 or so, something along the lines of a major cursed item. For the rest of us, I have an illustrative story.
Last January, shortly after moving back to Walla Walla from Seattle—not the more popular of the population shifts between the two cities, to be sure—I embarked on a sundries and staples trip to Costco. The big box store is an hour away, but I deeply appreciate only buying toilet paper twice an annum, so being in a mood to stock up for a while, I ventured the crowds.
Usually I stick to my list and I think I avoid something like 70 percent of the products this way. First of all, I don’t need to see the appliances, the computers, jewelry, or tire selection, and I certainly have no business in the candy aisle, according to my dentist, who has had to utilize all of her skills to keep my cavities at bay. But sometimes I can’t resist looking at the pile of books, the brass-accented furniture, patio umbrellas, and whatnot. I’m not serious about the encounters, save the book stack, but heck, I drove for 60 minutes to the middle of a gray suburb, so why not paw over the keyboard synthesizer for 30 seconds?
On this day it was a lot of kitchen mats. I spend copious amounts of time in my kitchen, second only to the hours I dedicate to my living room couch. And I’ve enjoyed kitchen work when standing on my mother-in-law’s fancy gel mat that straddles the tiles between her sink and island counter (which is granite, I’ll note). But her mat, when I checked it online, ran about $70 and there’s just no way I can justify that. Maybe if I had a bone spur and a culinary career. These Costco mats were $8.99. Now that was a price point with which I could live. As a bonus, it seemed, they had decoration on them, in fun, muted tones. I found one that extolled the joys of 5-cent coffee. Aw, I love bygone eras, I thought, firming up my decision. I took the 1.5-inch thick foam mat and curled it into my shopping cart. And of course it looked terrific next to the sink.
Now then, here is where I need to mention that even on my best days, I am not skilled at preventing my body from impact with the world around it. I broke a toe once running through an airport—Dulles International Airport, to be exact, and I haven’t forgiven it since—and I’ve walked into doors, conked my head getting into my own car, twisted my ankles countless times, and on and on. When it comes to toe stubbing, I am a prince. But there are just some objects in the universe, like soft, foam mats, that one does not presume can serve as toe crushing material.
In steps the effects of persistent sleep deprivation, looking something like Dean Winters, who personifies “Mayhem” for the Allstate Insurance Company in television commercials. Having only a base score of 11 or so for my dexterity, this curse of sleeplessness means that I am now open to injury at basically any moment, from any device or substance, including a floor mat designed to comfort my feet.
I think I was reaching for a lemon, on my decidedly not granite counter, when my big toe hurtled through space and time and directly into the side of the mat. Five-cent coffee! it proclaimed at me as I oofed and yelped. Screw you, cheap coffee from a bygone era. You were probably laced with chicory, anyway. Who hurts themselves with a cushion? How is that even possible? My poor appendage throbbed, angry at me, and causing my weary brain to recall that in the past three weeks since Emile was born, I’ve stubbed this very toe at least half a dozen times: in the hospital, on Susanne’s bed, three times against a wheel of her walker, once on Emile’s stroller, and once on the foot of our bed frame. That I can bend the toe at this point is testament to my body’s wherewithal. Probably I’ve hardened it up over the years.
Because obviously, though I have a dexterity of 11, I have a constitution of 17.