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MTT News's picture
Matt Geiger

After my wife and daughter and the dogs went to sleep and the cat woke up, I unzipped a black case filled with wires, tubes and instructions. I was doing a home sleep study, and the doctor’s office loaned me a device to monitor my sleeping and rate my slumber. 

I did it because I kept getting pop-up ads telling me that I might have sleep apnea, and that if I do, my heart will probably explode, or perhaps I’ll just be very sleepy and inefficient when I try to write my weekly column in the afternoon, in other words right now. 

I agreed to do it because I like surprises, and medical bills are always incredibly surprising. 

When my doctor instructed me to take a sleep test, my wife promptly instructed me to find out how much it would cost first. I’m not sure how much my health is worth, but I assume she needed to know if the procedure would cost more than the agreed upon figure above which I am completely replaceable. 

I called the insurance company and quickly received three estimates, in this order, all within a few minutes: $1,500, $0, and $392. At the moment, I still have no idea which of these is the amount I’ll have to pay. Like I said, it’s good to be surprised by life, from time to time. It keeps things interesting.

I picked up the machine during the day. At 11 p.m. that night I unpacked it and started reading the instructions. I wore the grim visage I always wear when perusing instructions, because I’m always waiting for the part where they tell me to utilize something–a screw or a washer or a piece of wood–that simply isn’t there. That’s why I’m surprised every time my daughter climbs into her bed, which I assembled a few years ago, and it doesn’t collapse into rubble underneath her. 

The sleep study contraption hooks up to your belly, torso, nose, mouth and finger in order to discover how many times during the night you stop breathing, and generally how much oxygen you get while you slumber. It was a terrifying idea, the more I thought about it–that while I thought I was resting and recuperating over the past 40 years, my body was actually locked in mortal combat with an invisible assassin who was slowly asphyxiating me, its invisible, cold hands wrapped tightly around my neck. 

Are those who suffer from sleep apnea really just being choked each night by ghosts?

Sitting at the dining room table under a dim overhead light, I began strapping the wires and tubes to my body. As I neared the end of the instructions–step 17, to be exact–I read that I was supposed to “use the tape provided” to secure the wires to my skin. And there was no tape. 

Of course.

Not in the box, not in the house, not with a fox. (Sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately.) I vaguely recalled my daughter using a large amount of tape to try to secure some heavy toys on ropes to the ceiling (it didn’t work) and I definitely remembered thinking it didn’t matter that she was wasting it, because how often does an adult really need tape, anyway? 

It was the middle of the night, I didn’t have tape, I did need it, and I couldn’t exactly drive to the store dressed up like a sleep-deprived cyborg in boxer shorts.

But what did we have in our house that possessed adhesive properties? The answer, it turned out, was inches from me. On the table sat a glittering (primarily) pink book with the title: “Stickermania: Over 1850 Stickers!” 

“That’s an astounding number of stickers,” I thought. “That’s more than a sticker a day for five years.”

I sat there, partially hooked up to my loaned, possibly quite expensive medical contraption, and wondered what our household’s stickering needs were. I also made note of the fact that the book boasted containing “over” 1850 stickers, which led me to believe that at some point–some point after 1850–the people who published this book simply lost count and decided they didn’t have time to start over again.

What kind of mad world was I living in?

I flipped through my daughter’s book, wondering which three stickers she would be least likely to miss if I used them. They needed to be relatively large, in order to span the width of the wires and stick to my skin, but the shape and design didn’t really matter. I found three I assumed she could live without, then used them; two on my cheeks, and one on my hand. 

I stood in the hallway, gazing into the mirror there as I put them in place. On my right cheek, a posh frog with long eyelashes and three bulbous fingers played a multi-colored guitar. (How incredibly difficult that must be!) On my left cheek, an alarmingly happy pink elephant held on to a striped musical note, essentially the same way you or I would grasp a life preserver in the middle of a stormy sea. On the back of my hand I put a smiley face, its skin a series of colors, its mouth aggressively happy, its eyes black and devoid of any discernable life. 

“Okay, off to bed,” I thought. 

As I climbed into bed and got comfortable, all the stickers popped off simultaneously. When I tried to press them back into place, I learned their adhesive powers had abandoned them in a complete - and most likely eternal - manner. 

What else could I use? 

That’s when it struck me. Bandages. We have so many bandages in our house, using two or three per day to treat our daughter’s various skinned knees, cat scratches, and bruised pride. I found a trio, slapped them on to my skin, and fell asleep, fully hooked up and ready to do battle with my invisible nocturnal nemesis yet again, fighting for air and hoping to make it through the night. Or maybe not. I still haven’t heard anything from the doctor. 

As I drifted off to sleep, I smiled gently and thought: “Yes, I am living a life. Right now. This is it; this is everything, this is all, and this is it.”

And I fell into my slumber, briefly leaving this mad world, full of comedy, adventure, and far too many stickers to count.


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