Noises in the night

It seems to me that snoring is probably responsible for a lot more homicides than are credited to it.

Some years back I was staying at a hotel in Chicago for a writer’s conference. Due to the poshness of the digs and my general penury, I was sharing a double room with five other people. It seemed like a good idea, until a certain ugly trait emerged in the darkness, completely transforming what had been an otherwise perfectly nice, normal guy.

This person, who shall remain nameless, was rendered all the more dangerous because he was an arrhythmic snorer. I can adjust my sleep to handle almost any disruption, usually by finding some sort of pattern in it. But when there is no pattern or rhythm…

At three-thirty in the morning I lay on the floor listening to him whistle, snuffle, gurgle and – I think – choke. Perhaps he was dying.

I might have even wished for him to do so. I might have dreamed I was holding a pillow over his head until the sounds stopped.

I confess that the small hours do not arouse great compassion within me.

Snorers are one of the painful side effects of traveling the hostel circuit, as I was wont to do in my youth. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a hostel is basically a cross between a commune and a stripped-down Bed and Breakfast. For a meager fee, one gets the opportunity to sleep crammed into what amounts to a tight closet with however many people the owners can get by the fire department. Amenities vary wildly, from clean sheets, a pool on the premises and breakfast included, to filthy, beer-sticky floors and beds guaranteed to give you a swayback.

But the snorers are always a constant.

Like some sort of international secret brotherhood they insinuate themselves everywhere. No place is safe from them. They could be anyone. No one is to be completely trusted.

Confronted by a snorer, most hostelers will content themselves with mute suffering. Not me. I always felt it was my duty to respond. I believe in quick, decisive action. A good shake. A poke in the ribs. Public shame. They work wonders.

Sadly, there are times when direct action is not possible.

Once, in Vancouver, I was lucky enough to share a room with a true champion of the Sheer Volume category of snorers. The hostel was a converted hospital of some sort and the room we were in probably held sixty or seventy beds. I’d been out with friends, drinking perhaps a bit more than I should have. The room was peaceful when I passed out. An hour later the windows were shaking. It was unbelievable. I kid you not, it was so loud you would have had to shout to be heard over him.

The place turned into an insane asylum. People up and down the room were shouting, moaning, pleading with him to shut up, go away, swallow his pillow. Had I not been chained to my bed by the bonds of alcohol, I would have been at his throat in moments. I remember reaching towards his bed with clawed fingers, hating that he was so far away. If only I had a very long stick.

I consoled myself with the thought that in the morning he would be made to answer for his crimes. (Did I mention I am not compassionate in the wee hours?)

But in the morning he was nowhere to be seen. Probably he knew from experience what awaited him had he stayed around. Maybe he was a ghost, doomed to forever haunt the place where he snored himself and a roomful of unfortunate souls to death. In the light of day I have since felt sympathy for him, cursed to be forever cut off from the camaraderie of his fellow travelers, always outcast on the hostel circuit.

Of course, actions against snorers don’t always turn out as one plans. One time in New Orleans I was having these bad dreams where this cow was dying. It was making this awful noise. I couldn’t stand it. I kept kicking it and hitting it with a stick, trying to kill it, to make it stop.

I awakened to discover that this woman in the next bunk over – she was on the bottom, I was on the top – was snoring. So I leaned down and poked her.

Unfortunately, she was not the culprit, which I realized when she groggily asked me what the hell my problem was and the noise continued unabated. It was coming from the guy in the bunk beyond her. Fortunately, she was pretty calm about my mistake and passed my prodding on.

Claudia – then my girlfriend, now my wife – was sleeping in the bunk below me. Since she, like most of the rest of the room, was now awake, she got up to use the bathroom.

Leaning down as I had must have shifted something vital.

No sooner had Claudia shut the bathroom door, then my bed collapsed down on top of hers.

The woman I’d wrongly accused giggled for some time.

I wish to end this by saying for the record that I think snorers ought to be confined somewhere after dark. Like werewolves on the full moon. They should at least be marked with some kind of brand on the forehead so we know who they are and can be wary of sharing hotel rooms, marrying, or going camping with them.

As to the rumors spread by my wife that I sometimes snore, I categorically deny them and state with the utmost sincerity that her words are complete fabrication, probably designed to cover her own snoring.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a secret international brotherhood.

PS No snorers were harmed in the writing of this piece.

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