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Lost In Translation: Sleep Deprivation Can Kill

Carole counts the hours she didn't sleep in London and plots a future Woody Allen collaboration.

I have a pitch for a movie; I'm going to call Woody Allen about it. My working title is Lost in British Translation and it goes something like this:

A middle-aged American woman arrives in London on business. After a very long day's shoot, starving and unable to sleep, she crosses paths with three other American women at a luxury hotel. The chance meeting turns into an unlikely bond as they shop, have high tea, go on television, and attend a dinner turned AA meeting. It culminates in a bizarre all-nighter where the girls get nasty and dirty with some boozin' and eatin' and realize they are in the throes of a sleep deprived mid-life crisis.

This is how Oscars are born.

Monday, the first day of London Trip:

10 am wake up in New York
1 pm buy suitcase, pick up dry-cleaning
2 pm lunch with agent, who would really like to see my finished book (soon, I promise and leave him with the check)
4 pm pack
7 pm cab to airport
10 pm leave on redeye flight, from Kennedy airport to Heathrow

Tuesday, 12 pm, arrive in London
(Up 19 hours)

Tolstoy or Shakespeare, or maybe Clint Eastwood, said there are really only two basic stories to tell: A Man Goes on a Journey and A Stranger Comes to Town. He forgot, though, this third universal one: Four Americans Don't Take Ramona to London and Go As Long As They Can Without Food or Sleep.

It was sunny when we landed, and Mark had gift pouches, and we giggled in the car so that was all great. But the more I didn't sleep, the more things started to bug me.

1pm, London
Arrive at hotel, where there's an important message for me: d'Artagnan called and wants his blue cape back. No, I like my cape. I'm keeping it.

I was grouchy this trip, it snuck up on me. So everyone started to bug me a little, and I started to bug everyone a little, back. LuAnn was bugging me and I was bugging LuAnn. Heather bugged me when she made us stand up and I was bugged when LuAnn stood up after I didn't stand. Sonja was bugged because I didn't wear a bra and I think Ramona and Aviva had our room bugged. Also, sleep deprivation is loosely connected to an autoimmune bug whose symptoms sometimes manifest as paranoia. Did you know that? I'll come back to it. (Up 20 hours)

Meanwhile, back in New York one very shapely prosthetic leg got a new Superfan. Ramona is completely smitten with Aviva's leg. So am I. Can you believe how amazing it looks? Ramona is right, it looks better than her real unshaven one. And true to her nature -- and her tag line -- Ramona asks the questions a lot of people are thinking. Aviva is so patient answering even the most detailed questions about it -- the shape, the toes, the flat-footed leg vs. the high-heeled one. Aviva has an elegant way of demystifying artificial limbs. Here is a confident, beautiful woman who struts around with her prosthetic leg in a bikini. I'm not sure she could have sent a stronger and more positive message about prosthetic limbs.

4pm, London

London is a horrible place to shop. That bugs me. The pound here translates to almost exactly $1,000 dollars, for anything. It leaves a lot of people shaking their cans in subways, Sonja makes a good point. Still, it was a nice treat to wander through my old neighborhood. (Up 23 hours)

I try not to get poignant about much. Life is long and if you get sentimental about everything you wear out fast. But Notting Hill was a nice period of time in my life. I came here for a visit a couple of years after my husband died. I planned to stay for a week and I stayed 24.

My new novel, The Widow's Guide to Sex & Dating, started here -- the idea and my original notes for it. I transitioned here. I went from being a widow to just a girl again. There was a boy involved, naturally. The terrain was all new. It was an awkward time, it was a fine time. It was a good start.

8pm, London

So, Sleep Deprivation can kill you. Did you know that? You can actually die from it, we could have died. We almost died, we practically died, we were thisclose to death. We didn’t sleep.

Heather is high energy. Wow. Egg pods, egg drops, what? What are "egg drops"? I thought it was a soup. LuAnn drew a blank. Then I thought maybe it was street language because Heather is gangsta chic. But I looked it up in Urban Dictionary -- nothing.

On the other hand, while Heather is taking 20 meetings an hour and building her international empire, Sonja, LuAnn and I are literally dying. Not only from no sleep, but also now from starvation. Did you know that your body starts to eat itself when you starve it? It eats your fat first, then your muscle, then whatever else is left. By the time we got to introductions at Heather's dinner half of my internal organs had collapsed. It's why I couldn't stand up. Then someone announced he was Queen and LuAnn knows the Radziwills (of course!) and I'm a Suck-Up People Pleaser who will say whatever you want to hear as long as I don't have to stand and you give me a little food. (Up 27 hours)

In the end, it's Sonja who gives the classy toast. Right before she orders. . .the ribeye. Plot point.

There is a disorder associated with lack of sleep called Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI). It belongs to a class of diseases that includes --– drum roll, please -- Mad Cow Disease. Yes, Mad Cow, which we all remember started in England and this is another reason I can't stand up at Heather’s dinner, and also why I'm increasingly grouchy -- I ordered the ribeye, too! Sonja and I are having mad cow hallucinations from the beef and lack of sleep. She heard music playing in her egg pod toilet and I couldn't even pee in mine because my endocrine glands were shutting down.

The toilets were a rip off of the Orgasmatron, anyway. I'm telling Woody Allen when I call him about the movie.

After dinner we went to Annabelle's, a private club that we got into because of Sonja and LuAnn's Olympic-caliber name-dropping. We got back at 3 am. And then, like 10 minutes later, I got up. I have now been awake for almost 34 hours. 5:40 am, Wednesday
Heather's bathroom

Anecdotal reports describe soldiers staying awake for four days in battle, or unmedicated patients with mania going without sleep for three days. But we're not Navy Seals, we're spoiled Housewives and we need our sleep or medication. But there's a TV show. Heather is on television. Heather has all this energy! Heather looks so awake! Where did Heather get so much energy?

She nailed her interview, of course. I could have slept in. Winston Churchill said, "We think too much the good luck of the early bird, and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.' I'm a late worm. There's virtue in it, and good luck.

9pm London, Wednesday

Finally, what you've been waiting for -- the nasty and dirty and the boozin' and drinkin'. This is it: Middle-aged Girls Gone Wild. Not so boozy or dirty, really. I measured LuAnn’s hips and then her waist to see how fertile she is. Then we braided our hair, took polaroids, talked about boys and, of course, Ramona. (Up 49 hours)

Who brings up Ramona? I do. Crickets.

Speaking of Ramona, I think she still needs work on her Heather impersonation. And I'm impressed with how many people at her table know the Heimlich Maneuver. I don't know the Heimlich Maneuver. Don't sit next to me if you're going to choke. Aviva, I bet, knows how to do it on herself.

So tell me something, I'm still groggy. Did this trip even happen? Or is this whole episode a lulling Twining Tea dream sequence. Do I wake up in next week's show a giant bug like Gregor Samsa? (Gratuitous literary reference). Did Dorothy ever actually meet the Wizard? Did anyone really shoot Bobby Ewing? Did Don Draper cheat on Megan with that girl and kill her then stuff her beneath the bed?

Total days without sleep so far: 2.1. We're nearly Navy Seal certified.

It's bloody late, mates, and I'm zonked. Ta-ta until next week.

Poll Question:
What’s the most bizarre place you ever bonked?

THIS JUST IN: My publisher emailed me today. What Remains is back on the NYTimes Bestseller List!! I’d like to thank all the people who bought it and read it and have tweeted me about it. It's meant a lot. Amazing! If you haven't and are interested you can buy What Remains here. Contact me on my website here. Follow me on Twitter here, Facebook here, Pinterest here.

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