My mission in life is to find out how many people sleep with a fan running. Well, OK, my actual life goals are a bit higher than that, but the habit of “fan sleeping” intrigues me. Pardon the inevitable dangling preposition, but ever since I can remember, I’ve slept with a fan on. Spring, fall, winter, it doesn’t matter. If I’m sleeping, a fan is running. It’s not that I want to feel the air circulating around me, nor do I wish to provide Baltimore Gas & Electric with any more of my income than I have to, it’s just that the noise the fan makes has me hooked. That mesmerizing whirring of my white 18-inch box unit has catatonic state written all over it.
I suppose, as with any neuroses, my quest for white noise nirvana has caused me to go to extreme measures at times. For example, while on a trip to Kenya several years ago, my wife and I stayed in a hotel just off a busy street in Nakuru. Not only had this hotel establishment not left the light on for us, they hadn’t left the fan on either. This dilemma only worsened when I realized the only way my emergency travel fan was going to plug into the wall was with a Master’s degree in Advanced Third World Re-Wiring. While confronting my growing despondency and nearly shifting into full sheep-counting mode, I suddenly realized that my room fortunately did offer a substitute. You see what a fan could not offer that evening, a television and towel could. Finding a channel that broadcast only “snow” was easy. So was draping the opaque bath towel over the screen. A quick adjustment of the volume, a kiss on the incredulous-looking face of my wife, and in no time I was whisked away to a safari slumber land, oblivious to the African world around me.
I’m acutely aware that such actions categorize me at the worst as strange, and at best, persistent, but surely I’m not the only one. Surely there are other fan fans out there. Surely there are others who, without a fan, turn the AM band to the far right or left, lock onto a non-station, hope it doesn’t storm outside, and retreat into REM. Surely there are others who not only upgrade their cars and computers, but also their sound machines.
I can’t help but wonder though what the need for incessant audio stimulation really says about us noise addicts. Have we become so accustomed to the cacophony of sounds that define a day that we actually become intimidated by stillness? Have we allowed talk radio to replace reflection? Are i-Pods replacing contemplation? Does the symphony of life really have no silent measures?
Maybe I’m just over-analyzing. But maybe I’m not. I suppose learning to walk without crutches can be a frightening thing. But the introspection it would spawn might make us understand ourselves, insecurities and all, a bit better. And that has a nice ring to it.