A friend of mine in college used to say that she had academic induced narcolepsy. She would get the recommended eight to– hell, ten?–hours of sleep, wake up, go to breakfast with friends, talk and laugh, walk to class, take a seat, and immediately fall asleep face down on the the desk open mouthed right in front of professors. So she self-diagnosed as an academic induced narcoleptic. It made complete sense to me. I had seen it, and some people, (those without any medical training) might say I have Münchausen by proxy, because I was often trying to get the rest of our friends on board with Masako’s tragic self-diagnosis. In class other students would point her out to me, and I would say, don’t make fun of her, she has a very real illness.
I’m not comfortable enough in public to go unconscious there. I prefer not to be sitting upright with people looking at me or asking me questions when I go under. Now, Masako is half-Japanese, (sensitively put as hafu in the Japanese language) and even she admitted there might be a cultural component to the disease. This month I have seen a lot of people on the trains, who are living similarly close to unconsciousness. Two entertaining examples just this month:
1. A woman with a baby strapped to her bosom. Open mouthed. In REM. I’m no expert, but it just looked deep. I’m pretty sure It’s something I’ve never seen before. Like they were not going to make it off at their stop. If she’d left a post-it note on the baby’s bum, someone would have awoken them, but this did not look planned. This looked like the pair were headed toward a different prefecture than their home.
I also bore witness to:
2. An old woman falling asleep with a cat carrier on her lap. With a cat in it. She was falling asleep in a forward direction and would about knock the cat off her lap when just centimeters from the unintentional cat violence, she would bolt back up, only to fall asleep again slumping forward and virtually knocking the cat carrier (and cat, possibly sick cat?) to the train floor. Then she would bolt back up again. I got off before this got tragic. It looked like it could get messy, though.
About the motion of falling asleep and then bolting back up: Last year a Japanese teacher and I had a first year junior high student that we taught together who used to fall asleep while he was repeating English out loud every day after lunch. I played basketball with him at lunch time recess where he outplayed me, and I recognized that this falling asleep, sometimes while holding a text book in his hands, was a serious case of academic induced Narcolepsy. I found it cute and also wanted her to respect his disease. He was one of these kids who pushed his glasses up by scrunching up his nose and he was teaching me how to make a one handed shot. She was irritated, but eventually she said, “what can we do? In Japanese we call that rowing the boat, how do you say that in English?” And I was like hmmmmm….we don’t have that expression in English.
I guess we just don’t feel comfortable enough in public places to routinely loose consciousness?