By Jonah Begone
Those who have followed my articles have learned about porta-potty etiquette, Tubby Bearded Guys, food preparation regiments and other topics of interest to reenactors. I now introduce another: snoring. You may think snoring is a trivial subject, but I once spent an evening awake listening to a reenactor doing a first person impression of a General Electric 4507-E turbo fan jet engine. It is not trivial.
Here are some handy snoring facts, gleaned from an article entitled "Turn Over, Dear, for God's Sake, Turn Over!" in the 1991 Old Farmer's Almanac (my pithy comments are in brackets):
- One night legendary gunfighter John Wesley Harding made life miserable for the fellow snoring in an adjacent hotel room. He shot a bullet through the wall and killed the snorer in his sleep. [This is why most reenactment sponsors have a "NO REVOLVERS" clause in their event regulations.]
- A 1971 issue of Eye Ear Nose Throat Monthly reported that snoring had finally been declared legal grounds for divorce. [Which reminds me of an incident at an encampment: I had spent a sleepless night in a tent adjacent to a certain drill-crazed 54th Massachusetts officer and had asked in exasperation, "Are you married?!?" His response was, "I used to be," to the amusement of all in nearby tents who had listened to his lusty vocalizing throughout the night.]
- Twenty of the first 32 U.S. presidents were known to snore, including Washington, Lincoln, both Adamses, both Roosevelts, Taft, Hoover and Grant [which means, unfortunately, that in defense some jerk will claim the practice to be "authentic"].
- Men are much more likely to snore than women. [So perhaps reenactors ought to rethink "no female musketmen" policies?]
- Obese people are three times more likely to snore than thin ones... if you had to guess who snores and you picked a large, sedentary, male smoker - say, Orson Wells, just to pick a name (he was a first-class snorer) - you'd most probably be right. [Which means that dull roar you hear coming from the direction of the Confederate camp at night isn't an earthquake or an oncoming tank - it's the sound of 3,000 Orson Wells.]
- The most popular cure for snoring, historically, can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, when soldiers sewed a small cannonball into a pocket on the back of a snoring comrade's nightshirt. Variations on this device - intended to discourage the sleeper from sleeping on his back, thus keeping the tongue forward and the airway open - have appeared periodically ever since. [The latest is "Dr. Jonah's Snore Begone," which is the tube of a siege cannon placed on the offending sleeper's back, preventing him from assuming the "back down" sleeping position.]
- Seven out of ten snore just as well on their sides as on their backs. [For which Dr. Jonah also has a remedy: a locomotive placed on the offending sleeper's side.]
- One approach has been to force the snorer's mouth shut, thereby forcing him to breathe through his nose. Francis Pulford's "facial moulding device" did that in 1893, as did John Rothenburger's "anti-mouth breathing device" 26 years later. [For this approach Dr. Jonah suggests completely immersing the sleeper's face in a tub of honey, easily "foraged" from a nearby farm.]
- One avoidance technique is to sleep on a firm mattress with a single pillow in a cool, well-ventilated room. [Does the term "Ramada Inn" suggest itself here?]
- Snoring levels in excess of 80 decibels (equivalent to a pneumatic jackhammer blasting concrete) have been recorded in the lab. [I do believe I once spent a night in this lab.] On June 28, 1984, current world record holder Melvyn Switzer hit a peak of 87.5 decibels. They say his wife, Julie, is deaf in one ear. [And she once tried to get him to permanently join my unit, but I cast the black ball.]
One interesting cultural reference to snoring can be found at the end of Act 2 in Alban Berg's masterpiece expressionist opera Wozzeck, the story of a mentally troubled German soldier who murders his mistress and subsequently drowns in a pond while trying to recover the murder weapon (very uplifting stuff, this). He's in the barracks talking to himself, and in the background can be heard the sound of a men's chorus singing wordless notes, gently rising and falling atonally, simulating snoring. Every now and then a voice is heard almost articulating a word in response to a dream, then it subsides. I was often reminded of this oddly comforting music when I lived in squad bays during my stint in the Marines, but there's something about hearing snoring coming from big, fat reenactors that somehow doesn't conjure up a night at the opera...
My quest for the unusual and unexplored continues. Future scientific articles on fat men-in-reenacting-related topics will include sock smells, barfing, wool chafing, B.O., and farting. Stay tuned!