Commentary: An Afternoon Nap

By Louis A. Zona
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – I often wonder about a lot of things, maybe too many things. My dad often teased me about daydreaming too often when I was a kid.

My older brother, Jerry, often teased me about my “wondering ways” and felt that I missed so many fun things growing up because I had a tendency to overthink in most situations.

Frankly I’d think of every possible scenario that would turn a fun and sunny day into a dark and rainy one. OK, so what that I was serious about a lot of things? And don’t call me Debbie Downer – I look nothing like a Debbie (although I do like those Little Debbie cakes and cookies).

Back when I played baseball, my position was pitcher. Believe me, that is one position when too much thinking and too much pondering gets in the way. I would have a ball and a strike on the batter and then begin to worry about throwing another ball, which put me closer to walking the batter. And of course, I’d walk him.

Instead of doing what the coach advised – to just throw the ball – I’d think it through and lose the batter. I was what you might call a “head case” when it came to my very short and troubled baseball career.

What’s that tabloid newspaper commercial? ”Inquiring minds want to know?”Well, this is one inquiring mind that needs to pull the plug when it comes to maneuvering through certain situations.

You might remember these lyrics from Rodgers and Hart’s 1940 musical “Pal Joey”: “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.”

I do not know that I’m bewitched but I do confess to being bothered and sometimes even bewildered when it comes to various life situations.

My brother had an Army buddy who amused himself by fidgeting with his fingers. One day he told Jerry that he believed that God gave us fingers not only as functional tools to hold a fork and spoon or grip a baseball but also as a source of amusement.

Somehow, my brother’s friend’s way of passing the time was unusual, for sure, but it also helped him to calm down and worked somewhat like yoga in that regard.

 I knew a famous art collector who solved the problem of a hectic life by never missing an afternoon nap. No matter who visited him, when it was 2 p.m., David excused himself and left to take a half-hour siesta.

It seemed to work with him and certainly not as unusual as playing with one’s fingers in public (not that there is anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say).

The other day I watched an episode of “Shark Tank,” the show in which entrepreneurs attempt to receive support from the sharks – well-known successful businessmen and women.

On this episode, two young entrepreneurs introduced the concept of silent rooms where people could rest for a period of time without outside stimulation.

As they described, their tent-like structures with soft beds and gentle soothing music calmed the visitors and encouraged daydreaming or restful sleep. Naturally, I thought of David and his 2 p.m. daily doses of midafternoon sleep.

Like most parents, my mother and father always insisted that I get enough rest and I had to be in bed no later than 9 p.m. most school nights. I must have thought that I was missing out on something when I argued with them about their early-to-bed rules.

Even as a kid I loved to watch the classic Western television program “Gunsmoke” that aired at 10 p.m. Saturday night.

When Dad caught me dozing off in the middle of that show, he’d say, “Lou, it’s time for bed.”

“But Dad, I’m not sleeping. I’m thinking,”

“Well,” he’d respond, “go think in bed!”

As I think about it, my father’s comeback would make a perfect title for my autobiography “Go Think In Bed!”

Sleep is definitely the way to that restful calm my friend David always tried to achieve. He is gone now. But I always wanted to ask him if his afternoon nap, which interrupted his busy day, kept him young. (He was in his 80s when I knew him.)

Scientists tell us that most of us should be in bed roughly 10 hours per day. That seems unreasonable.

For sure, some people like President Lyndon Johnson claimed to require a mere three hours of down time. On the other hand, there are people like me who require at least seven hours of sleep but barely get five per night.

So if you see me yawning in the mall, it is probably because I am fighting Mother Nature who wants me in a supine position from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. or thereabout.

I used to be somewhat of a daydreamer until I took a chemistry class in high school from Mr. Nelson. He had a knack for spotting the earliest sign of daydreaming in his class.

You know what comes next. He saw my head slowly going downward, which was the perfect time for him to direct a question to me about Joseph Priestly and his discovery of oxygen. “Mr. Zona, tell us what you know about one Joseph Priestly?”

“I forget,” was all I could manage to say. To this day, I can see in my mind Mr. Nelson watching my head dropping in preparation for a lengthy daydream. After staring at me for a good 45 seconds he announced to the class that Mr. Zona “forgets.”

One thing that I will never forget is what Joseph Priestly was all about. Didn’t he play third base for the Chicago White Sox?