Napping, Napping Everywhere….But Not a Nap for Me

July 31, 2000

Once upon a time, I was hunting for some new clothes at a major shopping mall in Thailand. I wanted to try some things on and I eventually found the fitting room. The saleswoman told me to wait a moment. The door was closed. I was stunned when I saw her go in and wake up about five employees who were asleep on the floor. This was only the beginning of my ‘napping nation’ experience.

A few weeks later I saw a clerk standing next to a gigantic display rack in a department store. I had a question for him and so I started talking. He didn’t respond. I talked some more - with no response. Upon closer inspection, I discovered he was sound asleep in a full standing position. His head was slightly tilted and supported by a nice fluffy stack of towels. I was awe struck.

I have since learned that Thai napping can happen anywhere at anytime - on tables, under tables or simply by leaning forward in the chair and putting the head down on a table. Noise, heat, or the position310700k1.jpg of the head and body become irrelevant. Napping in crowded busses, boats, and trains is common. Napping on the back of a speeding moped while sitting in a sidesaddle position is also possible and so is napping on winding roads while heads bob back and forth like metronomes.

One of my favourite napping techniques is the ‘sitting cross-legged on the edge of a tailgate of a pickup truck driving top speed down the highway’ position. I have seen napping on piles of vegetables, napping on a truckload of tires, napping with livestock and napping in dangerously-perched and high-up positions. My friend recently reported a napper sticking out of the back of a cement mixer truck.

I am one of those people who sometimes simply cannot sleep let alone nap. I have stared at alarm clocks in dismay as they showed the sad time of four or five a.m. I have channel flipped until dawn. I also have a long list of pre-conditions that must be met before I can enter the realm of a nice310700k2.jpg snooze. It must be quiet. It must be dark. I must be in a fully horizontal position.

Most people I know back in the States will deny sleeping at night, let alone napping. An after-midnight phone call with the caller asking, “Were you asleep?” invariably gets the answer, “No, no” from the person who has been rudely disturbed by the ringing telephone. What would your boss’ reaction be if he or she were to come in and find you sitting in your chair, facedown, and sound asleep at your desk? I have seen this many times. I have also witnessed people moving offices in Thailand. Out comes the desk, the computer, the photocopier, and yes, sometimes the bed.

Originally I could not fathom the Thai ability to nap. Now I am no longer so easily impressed or shocked. Instead I have become an Olympic judge of napping. I give out points for difficulty of napping position, elegance of performance, and level of difficulty of napping environment. As a country, Thailand deserves a310700k3.jpg gold medal.

I think it is more than fair to point out that Thai people generally work very long hours for much less money than most would suspect. They have more than the right to be tired. It can also be ridiculously hot in Thailand. By getting up very early and taking an afternoon siesta, the peak hours of heat can be avoided. In Thailand, it seems there is no time like the present for a quick snooze.

Napping no longer surprises me. When asked to write down their favorite pastimes, Thai students often list napping at the top. I aspire to one day obtain the Thai napping skill. It would make my life so much easier and I would be far less tired.

Hundreds of strange T-shirts with even stranger sayings in English have either migrated to or been produced in Thailand. Most often the Thai wearer does not know what these shirts say. Parent-teacher organizations, bowling clubs, concerts, vacation spots, and companies from around the world are well advertised here. I often wonder how these shirts found their way to Thailand in the first place. Oh, if only a shirt could talk.

Shopping at a street vendor stall one day in downtown Bangkok, I chose my purchase and looked for the salesperson. I eventually spotted him. He was a 10- or 11-year-old boy standing at the far end of the table bent over at the waist. He was sound asleep on a pile of silk underwear. Finally he awoke and blurry eyed, he stood up.

He was wearing a bright yellow T-shirt. It proclaimed: SLEEPING CHILDREN OF THE WORLD in bold, dark-blue, square lettering.

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