Phyllis is a ‘light sleeper’ ­ literally

Phyllis is a 'light sleeper' � literally by Bob Karolevitz Phyllis needs a night light when she goes to bed.

The trouble, she explains, is claustrophobia, which my trusty dictionary says is "abnormal fear of being confined in a small space or room."

Not having that malady, I once pooh-poohed her insistence on an electronic "security blanket."

"Go to sleep!" I commanded, the first time she asked that a light be kept on. "Do you want me to look under the bed for monsters, too?"

But not any more!

Since then I've come to appreciate that she wasn't kidding. The condition is not unlike my hate of oatmeal, which I got sick from eating on an athletic trip to Brookings, a long, long time ago.

Just the mention of the mushy stuff conjures up memories of the Shawnee Hotel (where we stayed), and I get that queasy feeling all over again. Of course, Phyllis argues it's not the same!

I can remember a railroad trip in Canada when she had an especially awful attack of her phobia. We were in a confined compartment when it happened. It seemed like only yesterday.

She made me get up, put on my clothes and then we walked the whole length of the train until the feeling subsided. I've kept a night light glowing ever since.

Phyllis comes by it naturally, I understand. Her brother, Jack, probably has it worse than she does. As a matter of fact, he can't stand to hear � or read � about it. So we will hide this column from him.

But I digress!

No one is immune to the problem. Neither the rich nor famous are spared.

For instance, I can recall an incident when I escorted the best-selling novelist � Adela Rogers St. John � back to her hotel after a speech she had given. When we arrived at the elevator, she wouldn't enter it until I agreed to accompany her to the floor her room was on.

That gave me a new insight to claustrophobia. If a worldly writer was afraid of a tiny elevator, then the affliction was worse than I thought.

Speaking of elevators, I cringe every time Phyllis sets foot in one of those window-less things. Would it erupt in another replay of that long walk on the Canadian train?

I don't want to tread on a psychologist's ground. Goodness knows those MDs are more schooled on claustrophobia than I am, but I need help to head off more occurrences.

Meanwhile, Phyllis can have all the night lights she wants. After all, those tiny bulbs take very little electricity.

� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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