Three months ago, I was staying at the Freestyle Hostel in Ushuaia, Argentina, down there at the End of The World…Tierra del Fuego…Patagonia. All that fresh air and gorgeous mountain view was very memorable and I wrote about it in my journal. But, not so lyrical was my last night there when a snoring woman became my roommate. That memory returned in all its horror today when I came across the following account in the journal I’m typing up for my next book.
Please Travelers, if the shoe fits, at least pay a little more for a private room. Walls may only serve to muffle your sound, but at least, the rest of us won’t know who to blame in the morning and we might, possibly, get a little sleep, to boot.
“What a long and hard night it was…with a snorer in the room! Some time after dark, while I was in the shower, a new roommate checked in. I had shared the dorm room with only one person the night before – a nice guy from Washington State and Hawaii. He was a very good roommate and a silent sleeper, as all but one of my previous roommates have been. Just one, on my first night in Bogota, was a snorer, and he had some plug-in, oxygen device that fitted over his mouth and nose when he slept, which actually worked very well. He was a young guy who knew he had a problem, but wanted to live the backpacking hostel life, so he invested in this machine and dealt with its bulk, out of consideration to us….and who knows, maybe not wanting to die of sleep apnea, as well.
My new roommate, from France, did not. She’s an older woman; a bit heavy, with a steel-grey, pageboy hairdo. She speaks English and we conversed pleasantly while getting ready for bed. In fact, she was complaining about the noise in the hostel which was running very high. The young man at the front desk had the stereo on full blast and everyone sitting around the tables had to shout above it. Doors were slamming; footsteps were pounding; pool balls were clacking. There was more nervous energy in the air than I had noticed before.
So, Dominique says that she’s paid up for two nights. “If it’s too noisy, I’ll just go somewhere else tomorrow!” and she made the defiant gesture of smacking her right hand into the crook of her left elbow, raising that lower part of her arm. It must be a French or European signal that probably means, “Up Yours!” But, I did approve of the fact that she obviously valued peace and quiet. However, she wound up creating more disturbance than the revelers in the lounge, who finally went to bed at midnight. Dominique sawed away, all night long, and I could tell that my fellow-sufferer roommate couldn’t sleep either, by his restless stirring. I’ll be up most of tonight, flying to Buenos Aires, and it would have been so nice to get some rest last night.
Instead, I lay there for hours, analyzing things about snorers. How utterly wretched it would be to marry someone, after having carefully observed the moralities and proprieties and “saved yourself” for your wedding night, and then learned what you had gotten yourself into. How many women (or men) have passed the nights of their lives in lonely desperation, with nowhere at all to escape to? Many don’t have the luxury of spare bedrooms, or unused recreation vehicles stored in their backyard, a solution a friend of mine was once driven to. That’s a desperate measure and not always comfortable, either.
I thought of my dark, silent bedroom at home, which I will again occupy a week from tonight. What a true luxury that is, without even anybody, ever, sawing logs inside my really quiet house. But what about people sleeping near a snorer in an adjoining apartment or hotel room, or a house built close next door. What do you do then? Snoring is noise pollution but you can’t call the cops to complain about it. And, the perpetrator isn’t doing this on purpose and can’t fathom why you are so resentful and unfriendly in the morning.
What they are guilty of, however, is “Domination.” They dominate every second, and every square inch of that darkened room, or sometimes, every square inch of a whole house, with their SOUND EFFECTS. “Whoownk! Whooosh! The poor victim’s attention and focus gets stuck squarely upon that sleeping tyrannical individual who has stolen their sleep so completely, and who simply won‘t/can‘t give it back.
I have been sleeping in hostel dorms with silent strangers for four months now, so I’m an expert on the differences between silent sleepers and “Those Others.” When someone is quietly sleeping, you pay no attention to them, other than to try to be considerate not to make noise yourself: like not rattling a plastic bag when you dig out your toothbrush; or not bumping into something on the way to the bathroom. Those quiet roommates are, essentially, only sleeping lumps in a bunk bed, like you plan soon to be. They don’t impinge, one way or the other, upon your consciousness.
But, a snorer! They take a center stage position and carry on a performance all the night long. Once in awhile, they tease you with a blessed silence and you start to drift off into grateful sleep. Then, they pull that motorboat cord and roar back into another dreadful animal imitation of a bear, a wolf, or a very big dog. Your mind plays with that for awhile, and then returns to performing psychic operations on the offender’s head. A pillow pushed down? Nope! I’ll try that on myself. Doesn’t work! Neither do earplugs.
The imagined measures grow more desperate; the dreamed up inventions for a cure, more complex…until finally, you realize with a start that she is silent. Oh Joy! Forget it. Now, it’s morning and she is simply awake….and snagging the bathroom first, after having had herself a long and sound night’s sleep.
Later that morning, I talked to my poor, dragged-out roommate. His sentiments matched mine, exactly. We both check out today, but he agreed that he would change rooms if he had to stay there another night. That was BAAAAAD! I asked him, cautiously, if I snore, since we had already weathered three nights together before the Log-Sawer checked in. “No, you do not!” he said. I commented that this is the very best argument for sleeping with somebody before you marry them, that I had ever heard.
Since he’s still single, he heartily agreed.
Just before I left for the airport, I saw the baggage of several strangers on the bunks around Miss Chainsaw’s bed. I tried so hard to find out who those unsuspecting roommates were, so that I could whisper a warning and allow them to request another room – far away. But, my good deed went nowhere because I never identified those who were innocently heading straight for sleeper’s hell.”