Mrs. Mooring was a little old lady who lived a few doors down from me in North Carolina. She didn’t have a car and couldn’t get out much so she was always ready for a visit and happy to have company drop by. She also never wanted anyone to leave. No matter if you had been there five minutes or two hours, she always said the same thing, “Come back when you can stay longer.”
During one of our daily gabfests, I regaled Mrs. Mooring with one of my long-winded tales and noticed that she appeared to be fighting off sleep. The more I talked, the heavier her eyes became and before long, she even started to snore a little. I felt like Jo March reading to her aunt in Little Women. Well, you can imagine how awkward I felt. If I stopped talking or tried to slip out unnoticed, her eyes would pop open. She would be fully awake and ready to continue chatting. However, if I continued my end of the conversation, I simply looked like an idiot.
At the time, I honestly threw the whole thing up to her age and assumed it was not unlike reading a child a bedtime story. She was elderly, lived alone and perhaps she found safety and comfort in the white noise of my voice. I also wondered if her hearing was bad or if my words ran together in her ears. But I didn’t think I was actually triggering her.
That thought didn’t occur to me until several years later when I was working third shift at a hospital. The midnight to 8 a.m. shift is a bear and there were definitely times when it was all I could so to stay awake. I listened to a lot of audio books, listened to the radio, got up and walked around and of course chatted with a co-worker about anything and nothing.
Every so often though, I would notice that like Mrs. Mooring, my co-worker’s eyes would start to droop as if I was putting her to sleep. Now, I will be honest, this time I was worried. Were my stories that boring? I would try to avoid conversation out of fear that I was dull, but I noticed that she would ask a lot of questions as though she was trying to keep me talking, but then all of a sudden, zzzzzzz…
Age wasn’t a factor this time, but the time of day was so I presumed that it was the lateness of the hour rather than the sound of my voice causing her to go to sleep. I think it is difficult for people to accept the fact that their voices have this affect on people, especially because our voices sound so different inside our own heads. However, I couldn’t help noticing the similarities and the wheels in my brain began to turn. Did my voice have an affect on them the same way that my friend’s did on me? Were they experiencing the same brain buzz I had?
I didn’t know and quite frankly, there is no good way to walk up to someone and say, “Hi, do I put you to sleep?” or “Does my voice sound good to you?” It would sound positively ridiculous and having experienced the same thing myself, I knew that there was no way my co-worker would ever tell me. Heck, it was entirely possible that she didn’t even know exactly what was causing it herself!
I had taken a self-hypnosis for stress management and sleep course in college so I knew that the professor could lull me into a sleep with her guided visualizations, but she was trying to relax me. There were therapeutic principles involved. I was just talking so this made no sense. Were these people just tired to begin with? Was it me or was it them? Every once in a while I would revisit these episodes in my head wondering if there was any way to harness this feeling or if I would ever find out what it was?
Until next time, tingle on!
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