Not So Fast

Where am I?

Ah, the joys of middle-of-the-night bathroom trips on the road.

After three months in Gilbert, my subconscious knew where I was: not at home, exactly, but in a familiar place. But as we work our way east to the birds of Florida, we’re in a different hotel every night; indeed, a different chain every night. This requires a lot of my middle-of-the-night brain. Too much, really.

In complete darkness, I lurch off in what seems like the right direction, but the room pipes up.

Not so fast.

As I shoulder-check a wall stub and try to trip a dresser with my bare feet, I think, “If only there were a nightlight of some sort.” Nonetheless, only a few bumps later, I make it back to the bed.

Five hours later I wake up to the sound of the Big Guy stomping around the room in his bare feet. What’s this? I don’t have to wait too long for the story.

Last night, after I had turned off my bedside lamp and snoozed off, the Big Guy had finished watching the hockey game and then tried to follow my snoozing suit.

Not so fast.

He had extinguished the usual sources of light in the usual order — first the ceiling fixture, then the bedside lamp — but the room wasn’t dark. Hitherto-unnoticed recessed lighting was now obvious, glowing softly above the bed, the wall-mounted TV, and the desk. Together, they lit up the room in an annoying way: nowhere near enough light for reading, for example, but way too much for sleeping.

A cheery return trip to the main light switch by the room door gave no joy. Nothing there controlled the mood lighting.

An even cheerier search ensued. Ten minutes later (by, ahem, participant report, not by independent observation), the room was finally dark. The recessed lighting was controlled by three sets of teeny-tiny switches scattered around the room and embedded in same-colour panelling. Not obvious to me, even in daylight; certainly not quickly identified in a strange room in the semi-dark. Here’s one installation, showing a close-up, a close-up with size context, and the normal view of it.

3-photo collage of sneakily small light switches

The next night, as I moved to be the first again to turn off my bedside lamp, the look from the Big Guy was clear enough.

Not so fast.



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8 Responses to Not So Fast

  1. This is why I travel with thick black paper and masking tape…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Or an eye mask? I’ve never see so much indirect lighting in a mere hotel room, nor such badly designed switches from an accessibility point of view. Next time, of course, we’ll Know.

  2. Fascinating. And why would there not be a note somewhere, such as on that handy door key card, informing the occupant how to douse the lights? I can sleep through sunlight but, then, I close my eyes to sleep. Do you know that some people do not close their eyes to sleep until the eyes close willy-nilly? They certainly need darkness to hasten the desired rest.

    • Laurna — I can’t believe people lie down to sleep and keep their eyes open — is this someone you know?

      • Indeed. I sleep while he tosses every together night. To me, it defies logic. And I understand the neurological process by which we sleep that starts with the conventions we have been taught — to lie down, which relaxes the body’s muscles and sends relaxation messages to the ear’s stapedius muscles. The relaxation of the right stapedius muscle begins the disconnection of the integrating cerebral hemispheres by reducing left-brain dominance. All of the “symptoms” of progressive “mental illness” cascade so rapidly that we don’t usually identify the phases because we are already beyond the ability to think, i.e., in a (hopefully transitory!) schizophrenic state of non-dominance. The process reverses when daylight penetrates the eyelids and the sounds of the awakening world jump-start the stapedius muscles into tonic arousal. eyelids open, the eyes can focus once more, respiration and heart rates increase, the body’s muscles respond with stretching that further stimulates the ear’s muscle responses — we are off and running again. An ear muscle that is not tonic can impede any phase in this process.

        For some people, going for a walk will enhance the activity of the ear muscles enough (the neurological feedback loop that Tomatis explains) to make them compliant when the left-brain makes the decision to sleep. That’s not a practical solution where I live in the countryside so half an hour of Focused Listening usually does the trick. For hubby, however, who has some kind of congenitally unresponsive ear muscles as well as age-related hearing losses, it takes longer listening and greater distraction — perhaps reading in bed — before he can fall asleep (with his eyes open, unless I suggest otherwise, if I am still awake).

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Maybe some people (not me or anyone I know) think that their design and/or communication is intuitively obvious. Turns out, not so. In some parts of the world other than North America, the room key has to be inserted into a slim wall-mounted box, near the door, to turn on the power in the room. Even though I knew that, I had trouble finding that box in Ecuador. In a dark room, it was hiding behind the door.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – I resemble your story in all respects, especially taking out stub walls with my shoulder and trying to move dressers and other furniture with my bare feet. My other problem is remembering to block out the clock on the microwave and remembering to unplug the noisy refrigerator.

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