The Day Sleeper (South Pole retrospective)

[I came across this from my stash of “unpublished South Pole Journal notes” and figured enough time has passed that I can post it safely. Those of you who haven’t spent time on the ice or weren’t following the blog while I was there would probably do best to review some earlier posts from that era, specifically those involving life at Summer Camp. Names changed to protect the guilty, if anyone cares…]

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11/21/10 – The Day Sleeper

This morning was Sunday morning. Our one day a week to sleep in. Except, perhaps for that incessant beeping at 5:00 a.m. And 5:05 a.m. And 5:10, 5:15, and every five minutes after until I finally gave up and abandoned hopes of sleep at 7:30.

Either someone was a very sound sleeper, or they’d spent the night elsewhere on a station tryst and left their unattended alarm to madden the leeward side of J-7 in their absence. Those were the only two rational explanations I could come up with.

Problem was, rational hadn’t come into the equation that morning.

Now, Beth had warned me that I would find myself sharing close quarters with folks who I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to spend time with. I thought she meant folks with differing political or religious views. Folks from working-class backgrounds. I didn’t think she meant people like Alice – people who, while not technically “bat-shit crazy”, lived far enough along on the sociopath scale to warrant a wide berth.

I didn’t realize it, but this particular bit of trouble started two days ago, when she cornered me I the lunch line.

“Hey Pablo – I need to let you know that I’m your neighbor, and I’m on swing shift now. I only got one and a half hours of sleep last night. You and your neighbors are way too noisy in the morning, and you’ve got to realize that you’re surrounded by people who are day sleepers.”

“Yow! Sorry about that – I’ve been trying to be pretty quiet.” In fact, I thought I’d been *very* quiet, and wondered whatsounds I personally could be making to disturb her. Is there something I bang? The scrape of my coat on the wall?

“Um – is there a particular noise I’m making that’s the problem?

She looks shocked, as though I’ve asked an explicitly sexual question. “Oh – I can’t tell you that!”

I’m baffled. “No, really – what noises? I stand up, straighten out my comforter, put on my shirt, pants, coat and backpack and leave. I didn’t think I was making any noises, but if you let me know…”

She’s flustered now. “Well, don’t worry – you’re not the worst offender, and I’m making sure to tell all of our neighbors. But remember, we’ve got a lot of day sleepers in this end of the Jamesway.”

I’m still baffled. I’d asked Beth, ages ago, how noise complaints were handled in Summer Camp, and it sounded like a serious business. If I were getting a noise complaint lodged against me, I wanted to know what it was for.

Yesterday, Daniel flagged me as I got back in from a service call. “Oh yeah – a woman came by and wanted to apologize for yelling at you yesterday.” Huh? Conceivably, it might be Alice, but “yelling at me?” That didn’t fit. It was her, however – she cornered me again at dinner and apologized profusely. I wasn’t the problem, not at all, she said. But she’d been tired and cranky, and I was the first person she’s seen, so I got the unrehearsed brunt of her frustration.

No worries – I assured her I hadn’t felt hurt, just puzzled, and thanked her for clarifying the situation. We had a good “it’s all better now” hug and parted ways.

Okay – fast forward to this morning. Aside from the untimely wake-up torture, the day had been going well. I’d made use of the early start to go running on the station treadmill, take a luxurious two-minute shower, and read a few more chapters of Siple. Was heading out toward DZ to go XC skiing with Zondra, when I ran into Alice in the coat room.

“Hi Pablo – sorry, I should have warned you. This morning, I set my alarm to show all those noisy people in J7 what it’s like to get woken up early. It’s this really annoying thing: it beeps ten times, then does double beeps ten times, then does this loud triple beep. Then it waits five minutes and repeats it all over again. I wanted them to know how obnoxious it is to have a noisy neighbor who wakes them up.”

Me: speechless.

“In any case – sorry, I should have warned you that’s what I was doing.”

Me: “Uhh….”

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