Fighting Gravity

At age 83 I’m continually conscious of how much energy it takes just standing, moving.  As a boy on the farm I hauled hay, shoveled ditch, pitched manure, climbed trees, walked, and ran a lot!  I was the fastest kid in South Emery High School.  A land surveyor, I hiked Nevada and Utah deserts, climbed Alaska mountains and slogged through swamps and tundra.  If you’ve not walked over tundra, imagine hiking miles on wet mattresses.  In middle age I took up running.  Over thirty years I jogged thirty thousand miles, over 160 races, 7 marathons.  Today just plodding around the house takes determination.

I’ve been tired, even exhausted, but until now given virtually no thought to a major cause of my fatigue.  When I’m not lying down I’m fighting gravity.  It is odd that only recently I finally confronted the culprit, the ubiquitous force tugging at my heels.  Of course I knew about gravity, experienced it, but real appreciation was academic, theoretical.  Curiously, at last looking the beast in the eye raises significant issues heretofore ignored or overlooked.

Back to theory for a moment, Albert Einstein said gravity is matter bending space.  When I don’t tighten my belt and my britches fall to my knees, it’s matter bending space.  Sure Albert.  Right.

In the fight against gravity sitting ranks next best to lying–more on lying later.  We say “sit down.”  We sit.  “Down” is superfluous.  Same for “sit up.”  Don’t need the “up.”  Except for kids.  Kids sit on their knees, one leg, one cheek, they slouch.  Parents and teachers order kids to “sit up.”  Adults slouch.  I never heard an adult told to “sit up.”

“Stand up.”  Here again no need for “up.”  If we stand it’s up.  Except for the military.  When a military maneuver ends the troops “stand down.”  As opposed to “stand up” I suppose.

When I lie down I don’t fight against gravity.  Which brings me again to the up and down business.  I lie.  No need for “down.”  After countless boring hours in high school and college English, friend Phil explained lie and lay.  When I “lie” I place my body in a supine position.  I “lay” an object on a table; a chicken “lays” an egg.  Phil pointed out, however, that when I place the soft material from between a goose’s feathers and skin on a table I in fact “lay down.”  Understanding even a small piece of this lie, lay business I feel kind of smug.

You can “lay over,” but it’s not about kids or the military.  If weather or terrorists close LaGuardia your flight may “lay over” in Gander, Newfoundland–Gander, I like that name; reminds me of laying down.–  But why “lay over”?  Why not “lay up” or “lie down” in Gander?  Maybe its “lay over” because the pilot lays the aircraft on the tarmac.  Passengers and crew may spend a night “lying”–not “laying”–in a Gander hotel bed.  I heard “lay up”; don’t recall where.  

I get side-tracked, better yet bogged down, by what my Harbrace College Handbook calls “appropriate form of the verb.”  Seven pages devoted to that mind-numbing lay, lie, laid, lying laying, sit, set, sat, sitting, setting business.  I’d really like to understand, but just seeing it my eyes want to cross.  I pity the poor folks who have to think about and write it down.  After passing a fifth grade grammar test Grandson Logan said, “Now I want to get that out of my mind as fast as I can.”  From the mouths of babes!

Fighting against gravity raises the business of beds, and it is business, Big Business!  Any evening on TV I see up to three or four bed/mattress ads: Mattress World, Bed Warehouse, BedMart, Tempur-Pedic, Sleep Number, not to mention JC Penney, Sears, Walmart, Costco, and dozens of other retailers.

There are couches, futons, and floors but mostly we sleep on beds.  Most spend a third of our life asleep.  It’s curious that despite buying, sleeping, and making love in them we give little thought or appreciation to beds.  Habitat is defined by beds.  A house without bedrooms is not a home.  Apartments have one, two, three, or more, and every bedroom has at least one bed.  Hospitals, jails, prisons, and hotels are defined by their numbers of beds.  Over a dozen Las Vegas hotels have thousands of rooms, and every room has one or more beds.  In American beds probably outnumber automobiles, even guns!  Consider the number of beds in Paris, London, Singapore, Tokyo.  Developed countries may have more beds than people.

The variety of beds is easily overlooked: twin, double, queen-size, king-size, bunk, rollaway, trundle, Murphy, sofa-beds, hide-a-beds.  Hammocks?  Hammocks are too uncomfortable for sleep, maybe a nap.   A nap is not really sleep.

On average we sleep seven to nine hours.  If I don’t get eight I feel hung-over, like when I used to drink.  It’s said President Trump gets something like six hour sleep.  President Trump needs more sleep.

Folks who travel: politicians, salespersons, entertainers, flight crews must sleep in many different beds.  Do they get used to it?  Do they wake rested?  In six months how many different beds does President Trump sleep in?

I just spent five nights in motel and relatives’ beds.  They were okay, but not my bed.  I love my bed.  I couldn’t be a politician, salesperson, entertainer, or in a flight crew.  Fighting against gravity I need sleep.

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