Thursday, November 29, 2007

Float on

"Has anyone ever seen the Simpsons episode where Homer and Lisa spend time in something called a float tank?"

A few heads nod slowly. "Is that the one where Lisa really trips out," one student asks, "and sees all these weird colors and lights?"

"Yeah, that one," I say.

"I don't watch TV," another student says.

"Hey, that's good," I say. "But anyway, flotation is this thing where you lay down in this box-like thing filled with salt water. There's no light, so it's completely dark in there, and there's no sound, so you can't hear anything. It's really cool."

A few kids seem to understand, but most wonder what I'm getting at. It's a few minutes before the bell, and I like to make small talk. Everyone seems to be paying attention.

"Well," I say, "last night I spent an hour in one of those tanks. Ever since I saw that Simpons episode, I wanted to try, and so last night I did. An hour of floating in complete darkness."

"I have a question," one kid asks. He's a kid who is rarely interested in anything I talk about.

"Sure," I say. Maybe he's intrigued. Maybe I'm finally connecting.

"Do you have any friends?"

The whole class laughs.

"I mean, shit," he continues. "You wouldn't catch me spending an hour in a tank like that. But I guess that's because I have friends."

The laughter continues. I join in. "Maybe you're right," I say. "Maybe I just don't have any friends."


Anonymous said...

I don't really know what to say to this - other than that I'm jealous that you got to chill in a float tank! What was it like?

mr. christian said...

Yeah, did you trip, go insane, or turn into William Hurt?

appopt said...

Thanks for asking.

I have to say, I have probably never experienced anything that I simultaneously loved and hated as much as I did floating. It was the best of experiences, it was the worst of experiences.

First of all, when I closed the door behind me and lay back into the darkness, it really felt like I was spinning, spinning, spinning into a void. I had to reach my arms out to feel the walls, to steady myself and stop spinning. But as soon as I released, I felt that I was moving again, this time sliding backwards like on a water slide. In complete darkness. I had to sit up and feel for the door. Sure enough it was right where it should be, right at my feet. So I hadn't in fact spun or moved at all. I lay back down.

For a while, nothing happened. Just the same old thoughts. I actually thought about my bowling team. We had bowled just an hour earlier. Lost. Thought about lesson plans for the coming days. And then I started getting angry at myself, wondering when the coolness would begin. Where were the visions? Was I really spending all this money to just float in salt water and think the same thoughts I always think? Many minutes passed, though I was pretty sure it was only a couple. I almost thought about abandoning the tank. But I kept at it.

Just as I was relaxing, letting my mind go, I got this insane itch in my nose. Don't touch it, don't touch it, don't touch it, I thought. But of course the more I thought about not touching it the more certain I was that I would touch it. So I lifted my right hand out of the water, shook off the water, and scratched, actually dug into my nose. Big mistake. Probably only a single drop of the water entered my nose, but it burned all the way down, down into my throat and mouth and I started gagging on the retched, burning, nasty salt water taste of it. I tried to let it pass, but I couldn't. So I sat up again, opened the door, grabbed a towel and rubbed my face dry. Damn it. I was wasting precious time.

I went back in. This time, I started really moving in the water. I kept slowly bouncing into the walls. I'd ever so slightly push myself off and eventually bounce into another wall. When that eventually stopped, I started hearing things. First, my heart. I heard it loudly, clearly. I was going fast. Then, it started really booming in my ears, with a deep, bass sound. I cracked my knuckles and the sound was a distinct treble ping. Different from the way it normally sounds. So I spent a few minutes trying to crack the knuckles in my hands and feet. Each time, ping! Then, I started making little noises with my mouth, just to hear the different effects. One of the more interesting ones was when I slowly, slightly gnashed my teeth. I probably did that for a good long time.

Then, I noticed my breathing. When I breathed in, my entire body bobbed out of the water. When I breathed out, I slowly sank into the water. In, out, in, out, I felt like I was just bobbing around in an ocean. I tried to picture myself in the ocean, floating on my back somewhere in Thailand or Belize. It was a pleasant thought, except that I really wished I were there, not alone in a tank. I missed the sounds of the ocean, birds, people. But I just kept bobbing away.

After a while I focused on the smell. Salt. Rubber. It wasn't pleasant.

At one point, I felt a cool breeze hit my face. I must have floated near the vent. It felt and smelled better. I tried to make sure I stayed in that spot, but I quickly lost that breeze, never to find it again.

I wondered about eternity. I imagined that this is what eternity might be like: a peaceful, quiet floating that's unbelievably boring. I knew the attendant would eventually come and knock on the wall to let me know the hour was up, but I completely lost track of time. Time no longer mattered or existed. I was in eternity.

When he did come and knock, I was disappointed. While in the tank, I thought it would never end, but when it did end, I couldn't believe that it ended so quickly. An hour was over. I can see how some people get hooked on it.

My initial thought was that I would probably never want to do that again. On the other hand, I was glad I did do it, and I would recommend it to everyone. It's one of those things people should probably try once. Sort of like going to House on the Rock in Wisconsin. A slow melting away of sanity that deprives you of the ability to use your own senses.

Any other questions?

mrs. p said...

Where did you do this at?

middleson said...

there was a good article on doing this in an old "Chicago Anti-Social" in the Reader.