Here's what happened recently: I was at a reading and it was in an enclosed space and there'd been free wine just beforehand. And I was sitting next to a woman I didn't know. And after a while she started leaning on me and I thought, Blimey, she's a bit forward, isn't she? So I sort of leaned away in the other direction. And then I noticed her head start to tip forward as her shoulders hunched over, and her breath came regularly and I realized she was asleep. And then her breathing got louder and more throaty and I could tell she was going to start snoring at any moment.
What could I do? How mortifying! I tried shifting in my seat and joggling her slightly, but that had no major effect. I could just tell that snore was coming very, very soon. And the poor writer at the front - how awful to have someone snore during your reading!
And then I started to snigger. My shoulders heaved and tears came to my eyes at the absurdity of it all. It was just too funny. I exchanged glances with the woman on the other side of my neighbour, who shrugged helplessly. I tried looking at the ceiling and concentrating on the reading - but it was no use. I had the giggles and they had to come out. And out they came - in a fantastically loud, fantastically porcine snort at a fantastically inopportune moment. Sleeping Beauty woke with a start, looking confused, while everyone else turned around to me and tutted over how rude I was to disturb the event with such a ridiculous oink. I think the words epic fail might apply.
Blushing and chastened but still unable to concentrate, I pondered the problem of falling asleep at readings. I've never done it personally but it seems to be a fairly common phenomenon at literary events in Berlin. The end of a long working day, a nice calm voice from a distance, a little relaxation juice beforehand, a warm room full of carbon dioxide...
I've actually read at an event where someone fell asleep in the front row, which made me giggle as well. But I have a theory that it's more likely to happen at German readings, for two reasons: Firstly, German readings are long. As in: two hours of reading and talking, probably at about a 50:50 ratio. When I go to English-language events I sometimes feel a bit cheated, having failed to hear half of the book read out loud. It's no wonder German audiences start to flag after a while, and it's not considered overly rude to leave in the middle. And secondly, German children are conditioned to fall asleep to the sound of voices. Not as in: their parents talking in the next room or the TV on. Oh no, German children have audiobooks. I know German adults who can only get to sleep to the sound of their old detective-story cassettes. Honestly. If you ask me it's unhealthy.
Next time I shall simply ignore the snorer. I'd advise you to do the same.