Music of the night

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Aug 09, 2019

Getting older can mess with your sleep patterns, as most anyone over 50 can tell you. But when the nighttime temperature stays above 70, and the humidity is 70 or 80 percent, well, even those who normally sleep like babies can have a hard time getting enough rest.

Still, in the country a sleepless night doesn't have to be torture, if you can avoid thinking those terrible "what-if" thoughts that lead down the rabbit hole of disastrous speculation. There are crickets to listen to, the occasional owl hooting in the night, the breathing of the dog beside you -- all comforting sounds. Or you can get up and look at the stars, because here in the country, you can actually see the stars and planets. On some nights, you can even see the cloud of the Milky Way.

Nights in the city are another matter. There, the activities of your fellow inhabitants continue all night, or nearly so. They're just going about their lives, talking and laughing beneath your open window, playing music at "sharing" volume, sitting in their idling cars while they chew the fat with a buddy. It's not a conspiracy to wreck your sleep -- it only feels that way because you want to hit the hay.

I was reminded recently of one such night from years ago. I was living in Cambridge, Mass. sharing a house with several other women. We were in a typical residential neighborhood near Central Square, -- gentrifying, but still solidly middle-class.

It was the late '70s and I was a couple of years out of college. I had lived in city neighborhoods for some time, and wasn't normally bothered too much by ordinary traffic and city noise. But one steamy night, when we had all the windows open -- none of the bedrooms had air conditioners -- someone in the neighborhood started playing the song "Reunited," by Peaches and Herb. I don't know if it was on a boombox, a home record player or what, but it was turned up so I could hear all the words, even with the pillow over my head.

The song came to an end, but I hardly had time to feel relieved when it started again. This went on through what seemed like at least 500 repetitions, until I really thought I'd lose my mind, or at least any desire I might have had to hear that song ever again. Over and over it played, "Reunited, and it feels so good. Reunited, 'cause we understood..." Oy!

I seem to recall that eventually the cops came and asked the offenders to turn their music down. The music stopped -- oh, blessed relief! And 15 or 20 minutes later, "Reunited, and it feels so good..." serenaded the neighborhood again.

Of course, there is something even more annoying than that: when a car alarm either goes off repeatedly or goes off and nobody turns it off. That really takes the cake for sleep disturbance.

I'll take crickets, owls -- even howling coyotes -- anytime.

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