These days I use chronic sleep deprivation as a tool. It’s my excuse when I can’t think of a particular word. It’s my justification for taking an early afternoon nap. It’s my benchmark for whether the latest set of nighttime hours aided or subtracted from my sleep deficit. It’s my metaphor for 2012, in which I measure achievement in between unintended bouts of sleep. At some point I may actually drool into my keyboard and short-circuit my laptop. Anything is possible.
But another effect of not granting rest to my brain is the effect it’s had on my frontal lobe. Perhaps my cerebellum is demanding that it operate at peak efficiency so I can like, breathe and blink and such, but my filter for shutting up has gone all wonky. I’m not lecturing passersby as I run errands, exactly, but my big booming laugh is taking more people by surprise.
Last week I left extra early before work because a significant number of my dendrites told me to get a mocha from the patisserie. Not the roastery, not the drive through espresso place on 9th Avenue, but the patisserie. Without enough alertness to remember that the shop wouldn’t be open at that hour, I maneuvered the car to downtown, then cursed at the Closed sign, which of course didn’t care, it being an inanimate sign and all. Idle at the light on Main Street, then press the accelerator. I figured since I was near the post office now I might as well pick up the mail for the office. About thirty feet past the stop sign I recognized that hey, those red octagons mean something important. What was it again?
No matter. I pulled over to park and fished for my post office box key when I noticed the police cruiser behind me, his blue and white lights ticking at me in my rear view mirror.
Right. I was supposed to stop.
This was when I collected my driver’s license, registration, and insurance card. The officer looked at me sternly.
“You went right through that stop sign.”
“I sure did.”
“You didn’t even slow down.”
“I was right behind you.” As if I should only pay attention to traffic laws when someone with a ticket pad is in proximity to me?
“I saw it after I passed it,” I said. “I have a six-month-old baby at home.”
I know, I’m going to hell for blaming the baby. And I need to shut up at moments like this. Why wasn’t I shutting up?
He took my information, shaking his head as he walked. Great. A few minutes later he came back to me.
“Sir, you don’t have insurance for this vehicle?”
“Sure I do.” I looked at the card. It had expired the day before. We had brand spanking new cards on the table at home. Vaguely I recalled agreeing to put the new card in the sleeve we keep under the dashboard for just such things.
My waking self would have done it right away, or at least within a few days. My sleepy self eschewed activities like updating proof of insurance, remembering store hours, and adhering to driving laws. I stifled a yawn so I could communicate with the officer.
“I have the new cards at home. We are insured, really.”
“Well, I wrote you a ticket, but it’s one you can get out of.”
I laughed in his face and then nearly peed on my seat because he looked so disgusted with me.
“I’m doing you a favor, sir, the least you could do is appreciate it.”
“I do, I do I do,” I said, like a bride who can’t wait anymore. “I simply thought you made a funny statement. I write comedy.”
SHUT UP, said the 3 percent of my brain that was still a functioning adult and not a hebephrenic schmuck.
“This is a ticket about your failure to produce proof of insurance,” he said, handing it to me. “Just contest it and go to court when the clerk assigns you, and it will be dismissed. And sir, get some sleep. You have a baby at home, you don’t need to get into a wreck.”
Truth be told, I don’t care to get into a wreck whether I have no kids or if I’m Jim Bob Duggar. I nodded, not speaking. Speaking was not working for me.
I put my information cards back and turned over the engine. The ticket fine as stated was $550. If nothing else happened that day, I needed to send in the notice of contestation, even if I was running on lizard brain.
Now that time had ticked by, the patisserie was bound to be open. I went directly there and bought the biggest mocha they would sell me.
Thinking is a wonderful thing.