It was midnight and the band was still playing two blocks away. In my tent, I longed for my college days when I could stay out til 3 and still make my 8 AM class. But five years later, here I was thinking, “When are they going to stop? Don’t they know we’re all getting up before sunrise to bike sixty miles?!”
As I laid there trying to think of something else to get my mind off the band, tears slipped from my eyes. I’d have a hard time making it through tomorrow with a good night’s sleep – how on earth was I going to do it if I didn’t get any sleep at all?
I looked over at my boyfriend, soundly sleeping beside me, and my tears poured out. How could he sleep through this? I had to do something. So I nudged him until he woke up. He turned over and as soon as he saw my tears asked what was wrong. Like most men, his immediate reaction to a woman’s tears is, “I must make this stop.”
“I can hear the band,” I cried. “When do you think they’ll stop?” I asked wondering if there was some schedule he had read that had the answer to my question. He didn’t know, but wanted to help. My mother had warned him, like all men I’ve brought home before and since, that his primary goals were to keep me fed and well rested. Like a gremlin, she told him to fear what I was like if I was tired or hungry.
He looked at me and said, “Did you try the earplugs?” Each member of our six person group was tasked with bringing different supplies for the rest of us: Tylenol, band-aids, earlplugs, etc.
“Yeah, but they didn’t work,” I said.
“Didn’t work?” he asked.
“They hardly did anything,” I said.
“Are you sure you put them in right?” he asked.
“You just stuff them in your ears, right?” I asked as I took the bright pink foam plug I had been given earlier and stuffed it in. It stuck out of my ear like the bolt out of Frankenstein’s neck.
T. laughed gently. “Here, let me show you,” he said. As he rolled the foam between his fingers he warned me, “It’s gonna feel weird when I put it in, then you’ll hear a crackling sound, but it will go away.” He pushed the narrow end into my ear canal and I felt like a bug had crawled in and made himself at home.
“Oh my God! You stick them in that far?!” I said.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Otherwise, they don’t work.” His words started to fade as the crackling started. Once the foam stopped expanding, the crackling ended and the band miraculously got quieter.
“Wow – it works!” I said. I rolled the other one between my fingers, then quickly pushed it far into my left ear. I couldn’t believe it. The band stopped playing. Or so I thought. I pulled it out. They were still playing – I just couldn’t hear them when I had both in. Once again, T. came off as the best boyfriend a girl could ask for.
The relationship didn’t last, but his lesson about proper insertion of earplugs did. To this day, they are a required item in my travel bag. And, thanks to him, many people have been spared seeing the gremlin I become if sleep-deprived.
Tomorrow night I’m staying with a family friend I’ve known since childhood. I met his girlfriend for the first time last year. She was quiet at first, but came through for me when I realized I was out of earplugs. She had a whole box. I immediately liked her. She was the first person I’d met in the six years since the aforementioned incident that carried earplugs. My outpouring of thanks might have scared her at first, but eventually she warmed up. And I’m looking forward to seeing both her and her boyfriend again tomorrow.