Bishop’s Mantle column by Jim Bishop
“It’s 3 a.m., there’s too much noise Don’t you people ever go to bed … ?”
-Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones (1965)
This scenario is happening all too often these days. Around 9:30 p.m., I decide to reduce the pent-up stress of channel surfing while reclined on the living-room couch by ambling into the bedroom where my hard-working spouse is relieving her tension with several rounds of “Hearts” on the computer. It’s obvious she’s as skilled – and addicted – to the electronic version of this game as I am to Solitaire (we’ll get a life eventually).
As I proceed to stretch out on the bed, longhaired feline Avery immediately joins me, purring loudly and sticking its bushy tail in my face. I watch Anna’s keyboard maneuvering, letting out a “yes!” when she wins another round and grumbling when one of the other “players” sticks her with the queen of spades.
Next thing I know, I’m cognizant that the computer and the bedroom lights are turned off, Avery is complaining loudly that she/it hasn’t been fed, lights remain on in other rooms of the house, the outside doors aren’t locked, the coffee hasn’t been made, I haven’t flossed or brushed my teeth, and the “Daily Bread” devotional guide has yet to be digested.
I squint at the glow-in-the-dark radio alarm clock. It’s 2:30 a.m., and things feel out of synch, even as Anna is deep in the inner recesses of la-la land, sawing wood – did I say that?
I stagger through our domicile in a semi-comatose state, following the well-hewn path usually taken between 10 and 10:30 p.m. (yes, I’m a creature of habit), telling myself all the while that this is positively the last time this will happen.
Problem is, by the time I’m finally back in bed, I’m wide awake. Might as well arise, get dressed, have breakfast and get an early start on the day. No, that’s not a good idea, knowing that I’d be more than ready for a siesta by early afternoon. So, I lie there, allowing visions of yesterday and the day to come to seep into my cataleptic state of mind.
I find myself thinking of people who play important roles in my life – immediate family, extended family, friends at a distance that I see maybe once a year, and I offer silent prayer for their well-being. A song that I haven’t thought about for 40 years reverberates in the echo chamber of my mind. Or a scene from childhood replays on my mental computer, reminding me of how blessed I was to be part of a close-knit, loving family.
The bedroom window is slightly ajar, and I ponder the traffic noise from Rt. 33. Why are people on the road at this hour? Where are they headed? A semi-trailer downshifts to make the grade; a siren wails in the distance.
I reflect on what I accomplished in the day that is now history, speculate a bit on what the day yet to unfold may bring to pass, and on occasion engage in a bit of commiseration on how quickly time is passing and on those things left undone that need to be done.
I’m tempted to flick on the computer and check whether any personal and work-related e-mail messages have arrived, but resist the urge. Occasionally, however, I’ll turn on the clock radio on the night table and quickly remind myself that neither is there anything worth listening to in the dead of night.
I think again of the days when nighttime brought 50,000-watt powerhouse stations like WLS, Chicago, WOWO, Fort Wayne, and WKBW, Buffalo, with their legendary dee-jays, blasting into my AM table radio. Where have they gone, and why can’t they return?
I’ve got to get back to sleep, I tell myself repeatedly. Sometimes that’s all it takes to slip back into slumber; other times, I remain in a semi-conscious (an awareness of large trucks) condition until reveille sounds.
Before I think it’s possible, the radio clicks on. It’s 5:30 a.m., and the volume level gently increases as the ABC news announcer comes on to report that 32 more Iraqis have lost their opportunity to experience democracy as we know it.
Morning has broken …
Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University.