An addiction you should not, will not lose any sleep over

November 14, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

Ladies and gentlemen, that sound you hear as you read today's column is the sound of freedom.

It's the great cry of a people throwing off the chains of fear and ignorance, of a people coming out of the closet after years of a secret lifestyle that brought them quizzical looks at best and outright derision at worst.

It's the cheering, so long stifled, of the fan-addicted.

God knows it's music to my ears.

OK, maybe a little background is in order here.

Regular readers may recall a column in this space last week about how everyone in my nutso family needs a fan roaring next to the bed to fall asleep.

Well, it turns out we aren't so nutso after all. Or at least we're not alone in Nutsoland.

Because dozens and dozens of readers wrote in to say that they, too, were fan-dependent and to share their stories about the joys and frustrations that accompany this habit.

(This is the beauty of what I do for a living. Write about gas prices or taxes and you're lucky if you get any response at all. Write about local politics or the size of Ted Kennedy's head - have you seen it lately? It's the size of a skillet - and you might get a few e-mails.

(But write that you sleep with a fan roaring like a combine cutting across a Kansas wheatfield, and the e-mails start pinging without letup.)

"Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!" wrote Tim Watts of Baltimore. "I thought I was all by myself when it comes to nocturnal weirdness."

"It's nice to see someone openly discussing the issue of fan addiction," wrote Diane Hall of Westminster. "I thought my husband and I were freaks."

Freaks, Ms. Hall?

Hardly.

Quasimodo was a freak. Anna Nicole Smith is a freak.

The Bearded Lady who worked the little carnival that stopped in my home town years ago - the one who insisted that a shy 7-year-old standing at the edge of the crowd (me) pull her beard as hard as he could to show everyone it wasn't a fake - she was a freak.

But you and your husband are brave Americans who happen to have a sleep lifestyle that is just a little, well, different.

Different - but every bit as respectable as any other sleep lifestyle, I might add.

Anyway, in addition to relief at knowing they weren't alone, the other dominant theme expressed in the e-mails was the desire to help others in the fan-dependent community.

For instance, in that first column, I had worried aloud about what would happen if my fan were to break down in the winter, when stores typically don't stock fans.

So many kind, selfless, wonderful readers came to the rescue that ... oh, look at me, I'm starting to tear up here.

Chris Steiner of Perry Hall recommended "making a recording of the noise. I have recorded our fan and now can play it back ... and at any volume I want. I even have three different tracks that can be chosen to repeat seamlessly. Slow, medium and fast."

Roseanne Blinder, perhaps anticipating some sort of nuclear winter where stores would be without fans for years, stockpiles five or six backup fans in her basement.

But maybe the most innovative response to suddenly finding oneself in a fan emergency came from Chris Tscharner of Severna Park, who wrote: "If one disconnects the cable from an older television, selects an unused channel and turns the brightness all the way off, a respectable noise source results."

Is that brilliant or what?

Whatever they're putting in the water in Severna Park, they ought to pump it into every reservoir in the country.

I bet the collective IQ would rise 50 points, minimum.

If there was one overriding concern voiced in the e-mails of the fan-addicted, it was summed up by Kathleen Truelove of Roland Park, who wrote: "You forgot one important drawback of using a fan as white noise: what happens when you travel? It's hard to stuff a fan in your suitcase."

Or, um, maybe not.

"Even when I stay at a hotel, I bring a little box fan with me," wrote Kenny LeCompte of Glen Rock, Pa.

"If you are a die-hard, you even travel with your fans," wrote Elaine Fallon of Baltimore. "When we visit friends or family out of town, we always pack a fan or two. Not only does this look very eccentric (especially in the winter), but you risk offending your hosts, who might conclude that their guest rooms are ... hot or stuffy or otherwise inadequate."

Yep, I'm with you, Elaine.

For the record, let me say this: I don't care who I offend, as long as I get a good night's sleep.

I'd lug a fan along even if I was spending a night at the White House.

That loud, droning sound coming from the Lincoln Bedroom at 2 in the morning?

That would be my three-speed Hawaiian Breeze box fan, set on high and nearly blasting a hole through the drapes.

You hope it wouldn't make the security people too edgy.

But my favorite fan-related anecdote comes from the aforementioned Watts, program manager for WWIN-FM, who wrote: "Recently, I had surgery and told the [doctor] to have a fan on stand-by in case I didn't respond to the anesthesia.

"I told him if I start to stir during the procedure, just snap that bad boy on and proceed."

I'm sorry, but that represents a level of faith in one's fan most of us can only dream about.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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