By Sue Murphy
I don’t sleep as much as I used to. In years past, my head would hit the pillow after the 10 o’clock news and I would forcibly drag myself from beneath the covers at 6 the next morning. Now, I wake up a bit earlier … 3, 2:30, 1:45.
I’ve quit worrying about these nocturnal bonus hours because worrying about not sleeping does not help me sleep. Neither does reading, which requires your eyes to be open while my goal is for them to be closed.
As the clock chimes the post-midnight hours, I try to quiet my thoughts, but they come in loud and clear, mostly about things I can’t do a thing about until sunrise.
The only solution, it seems, is to turn on the TV. Harold has us locked into one of those gazillion channel cable plans so you’d think there would be something soothing for me to watch.
Not always. By 3 a.m., a lot of channels have either gone off the air, or worse, turned their airwaves over to infomercials, and I do not find it restful to be reminded that my abs are too flabby or the food in my refrigerator is engaged in a time-lapse march to ruin as I sleep.
Or not sleep, it seems. Even if I picked up the phone and ordered one of those life-altering products, at the end of 30 minutes I’d still have to brace myself for yet another problem someone would be happy to solve for me for $19.95.
No, when I can’t sleep I need fiction, a vacation for my tired brain. Old sitcoms are light and noncommittal, but every half hour there’s a new theme song to get through, one after another, until you end up at “Roseanne,” which I don’t find relaxing at all.
Harold has no problem in the late night TV department. He just surfs through the channels until he comes across John Wayne, who is always on somewhere. John Wayne movies don’t work for me because they always come with a bugle charge or screaming air strike, and somebody dying a sad but noble death. Not nodding off material for me.
When I get the remote, I seek out Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury’s character in “Murder, She Wrote.” While the show does include a murder and shameful cover-up, there’s something soothing about a school teacher/novelist who can solve a mystery and bring the bad guys to justice without so much as a crease in her button-down Oxford shirt. On a bicycle. Jessica Fletcher doesn’t drive.
My second choice soother is “Matlock,” where Andy Griffith carries his deceptive small town charm into the courtroom to defend the wrongly accused while simultaneously finagling a confession out of the actual killer. In seersucker. You gotta love that.
I guess what I’m looking for is quiet strength, a character who makes me feel like I’d be safe falling asleep in the back of their car. Except Jessica Fletcher, of course, who, like I said, has a bicycle, but if she sat beside me in a taxi I think I could still fall asleep.
The new TV shows are great. They are. But I can’t sleep during NCIS or CSI or any of those grisly alphabet programs. Especially in the pre-dawn darkness, I need to know that I’m leaving the world in the hands of someone who has things calmly under control. It’s an illusion, of course, but no more so than those sheep everyone’s been counting. (Fleas and damp wool and mucking out the barn? What’s relaxing about that?)
A bulwark on a bicycle. Security in seersucker. With Jessica Fletcher and Matlock on cable, I can be off the clock. They’re my dream time dream team.