September 22, 1999
I wasn’t aware that there were moose in Venezuela, especially asthmatic moose, and even more especially, asthmatic moose in heat. But what other creature could possibly be producing those heaving, honking, snorting, snorfling explosions capable of waking not only the dead but also me?
My roommate, that’s who.
For 11 long, long, long, long, long (did I mention long?) nights, while reporting on the Rotaplast team’s mission to operate on the cleft lips and palates of indigent children in Maracaibo, I experienced…nay, I marveled at the atomic nocturnal snoring of a retired doctor who I’ll call, oh, I don’t know…let’s call him Glen, if only because that’s his name.
Now, Glen is a fine man, and we got along splendidly in the daylight. Perhaps that is why I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was keeping me awake at night with his very special sound effects. Even if I had informed him of his snoring prowess, what could he or I have done to lessen its effect on my slumber, short of he allowing I to smother him with a Venezuelan pillow?
The first couple of nights, so I tried to fool myself, were flukes. They had to be, I’d be curled up under the covers, minutes away from drifting into my hibernation-like state, and then, from 3 feet away in the next bed (this may prove difficult to spell), HHUHHYNNWAHHNNNKKKKK!!!
My eyelids would involuntarily jolt open like defective window shades and I would pray – pray fervently and with every ounce of religious conviction I could muster – that Glen would immediately cease his impersonation of an allergy-stricken Henry VIII devouring a live hog. God must have been busy elsewhere with more pressing matters, and I was left to wallow in my miserable state, doomed to descend jerkily into sleep, fitful step by fitful step, as the thunderous whonking of my roommate slowly faded. And by slowly, I mean glacier-down-the-valley slowly.
Unfortunately, those first few extremely loud nights were not flukes. By the fourth or fifth night, I became convinced that Glen…nay, that I had a problem. Being a consummate problem-solver, I smothered him with a Venezuelan pillow. No, I didn’t. But I thought about it. What I did do was try to fall asleep before him. When I’m asleep, it typically takes an act of Congress to wake me. I figured if I beat him to the Land of Nod, he could snore all he wanted, because I wouldn’t hear it. I’ve slept through trains passing 6 feet outside my window and I’ve slept through thunderstorms that have felled trees. I could easily sleep through Glen.
What I didn’t figure on was that Glen could fall asleep faster than audience member at a taping of The Joy of Painting. Within a minute of becoming horizontal, he would begin breathing heavily, and shortly thereafter I would swear that an angry duck was trying to escape through Glen’s esophagus. What piqued me was that I have long prided myself on the speed in which I fall asleep; my wife has clocked me at 3 minutes. Yet here was a man that blew my record out of the water…with gusto.
A couple of times I tried to hop into bed and fall asleep while Glen was reading; however, being courteous, he’d quickly finish, undress, get into bed, turn out the light and, within 60 seconds, start cracking the plaster ceiling. I couldn’t win.
But then I came into possession of a pair of foam earplugs. One night, as Glen began yet another snorefest, I jammed the devices so far into my ears that they touched one another. While known to be effective in blocking out the deafening sounds within the fuselage of a Hercules C-130 transport plane (the type that had flown us in from Caracas), the earplugs did little in blocking out that which I wanted blocked out. After all, a subdued atomic explosion is still an atomic explosion.
On the second-to-last night in Maracaibo, I nearly accepted an offer to sleep in a team member’s spare bed; however, I didn’t want to impose, and besides, by the time I was ready for bed, around 2 a.m., Glen wasn’t snoring. So I returned that person’s room key and went to bed…only to be serenaded by a chainsaw.
On the last night, I solved my sleeping problem by hitting a dance club with a dozen or so teammates, returning to the hotel at 3 a.m., just in time for a dip in the swimming pool before having to leave for the airport at 4 a.m. No sleep, no problem.
My wife Diane didn’t have much sympathy for me. It seems I regularly snore like an allergy-stricken Henry VIII devouring a live hog.