Friday, December 18, 2009

Sleep problems

Fortunately, I've never been affected by insomnia or sleep problems of any kind. Admittedly, I have early-morning dreams of a vivid and often disturbing nature, on precise subjects that I generally recognize. I often have the impression that I would be less anguished and generally happier during the day if only I were to cease having lugubrious dreams during the night... but that's no doubt bad psychology. Still, I mention that silly possibility because I'm in good company. Shakespeare, after all, suggested (in Hamlet's famous To be or not to be speech) that even death would lose its sting if only we could be certain beforehand that we won't have bad dreams. Consequently, if researchers were to inform us that they've located a tiny organ, or maybe a gene, that causes us to dream, I would gladly think about having it removed surgically. For the moment, though, it's a little too early to start looking around for such a medical specialist... and I'm not at all certain that the otherwise-generous French medical-benefits infrastructure would reimburse the costs of such an intervention.

But I'm getting sidetracked (railroad metaphor). Let me return to the case of people with insomnia and sleep problems. I would recommend that such individuals attempt to get in contact immediately with a 19-year-old French student in Brittany who surely deserves the title of the world champion sleeper. Maybe he could be coaxed into revealing his secret solution for sound sleep. In fact, I think I can already say that the quality of his sleep resulted from a powerful sedative of alcohol and cannabis. But let me describe the exploit for which he deserves some kind of survival award. Everybody has heard of those fantastic high-speed French trains called TGV.

Well, at the end of a September evening of copious drinking and smoking, our hero wandered off on foot, in a dazed state, into the misty Breton countryside. Feeling a little drowsy, he decided to bed down for the night between the rails of the TGV line between Paris and Quimper. Not unexpectedly, a few hours later on, a TGV happened to pass by, at a speed of a few hundred kilometers an hour. The train driver had the visual impression that he had run over a human being. He promptly stopped his train, 800 meters further down the track, and walked back to inspect the situation. He came upon our hero, apparently unharmed, and fast asleep. Finding it impossible to wake him, the train-driver phoned the local gendarmes, who soon arrived on the scene. With all these intruders gazing down on him, and trying to shake him out of his deep slumber, our hero was disturbed, indeed rightly annoyed. He sat up, yawned, half-opened his eyes, discovered the gendarmes, and promptly made a meaningful greeting sign with his extended middle finger, of the following kind:

He would have liked to get back to sleep, but the gendarmes insisted upon taking him to a cozy spot down at their barracks. Yesterday, a judge ordered him to pay 3,000 euros to the French railway authorities, to cover the expenses incurred by stopping the TGV and arriving late in Quimper. The wise judge said: "It's rare for a judge to tell an offender that he's lucky to be brought to trial. But you're a miracle case." Hearing this boring admonition from a wide-awake judge, our hero no doubt yawned and resisted with difficulty the desire to fall asleep.

PS: Do you know how we refer to wooden railroad ties in Australian English? They're called sleepers.


  1. Love the picture of the old girl with the raised digit...

    You wrote:
    PS: Do you know how we refer to wooden railroad ties in Australian English? They're called sleepers.

    We we use the same word in English Englsh

    Merry Christmas.

  2. Hi Paul: Yes, she has a delightfully defiant look. Her knobbly finger is weather-beaten through having been raised so often over the years, in so many conflictual situations, to inform all kinds of antagonists that they should get screwed. She raises that digit with the same automatic eagerness as US shop employees who bid you to "have a nice day".

    As for the railroad term sleeper, I added that note for American readers, who talk (I believe) of ties.

    PS: Are you interested in playing around with Google Wave?